“It was sort of open fact” was the reply of Tory Party chairman Grant “Spiv” Shapps when he was confronted by the relentless Michael Crick, now of Channel 4 News, last year on his use of the alter ego Michael Green. Crick was investigating whether Green, and another Shapps alias Sebastian Fox, were real people. And they were indeed real people – well, one real person not having either name, that is.
Lovely runner, ladies and gents, never mind the flat spare tyre and no MOT, real bargain, drives really well. Oh, and don't forget to vote Conservative
Crick’s investigation was not merely an act of poking fun: Shapps’ HowToCorp website boasted a number of testimonials praising its offerings. But the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) had “received a complaint suggesting neither Green nor Fox are real people and questioning whether testimonials on the site were really written by satisfied customers”.
The testimonials “included the mysterious Corinne Stockheath of Surrey who has never been found”, thus reinforcing the impression of forthright spivvery. And it gets worse: while last year’s investigation was under way, Labour MP Steve McCabe made a complaint to the Metropolitan Police about Shapps’ business affairs. The name may already be familiar to Zelo Street regulars.
It was McCabe who made a complaint about the absence in Australia of (yes, it’s her again) Nadine Dorries, only for the fragrant Nadine to snap back at him that his own Parliamentary attendance record was not so hot. McCabe, though, had good reason not to be at Westminster: he was recovering from open heart surgery. He told Ms Dorries this. She kept on snapping and failed to apologise (no surprise there).
This time, McCabe has elicited a fascinating response from the Met: their letter states that, although they are not proceeding further, “Legal advice was sought which concluded that the selling of the software may constitute an offence of fraud, amongst others” [my emphasis]. So what is this software designed to do? Ah well. Here we encounter the get-rich-quick world of Shapps the spiv.
As the deeply subversive Guardian reported earlier this year, the product was “software that inflates a website's advertising revenue by copying other people's content ... creates content for web pages by ‘scraping’ content from other websites”. That suggests deliberate plagiarism for monetary gain. This was, as the Guardian noted, “in contravention of Google's code of conduct”.
The problem that the Police faced during their investigation was that “How to Corp appears to have taken down many of its web pages, thus making it harder for any investigation to be conducted”. So there may not be conclusive evidence against Shapps, but the impression is given that the Tory Party has given the chairman’s job to someone who has been caught selling another very dodgy motah.
Some may question his fitness for his current role. I couldn’t possibly comment.
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