The Conservative party confirmed this morning that Grant Shapps acted under the pseudonym Michael Green, a "multimillion-dollar web marketer", while he was an MP – despite repeated claims to the contrary.
For years the Tory chairman denied that he was operating as the so-called web entrepreneur while being an MP, but those denials became impossible today when the Guardian published an audio recording from a year after he entered parliament in which he was still running his business, How To Corp.
Shapps says in the recording:
"If people are listening to this pretty currently, and we're in the summer of 2006 whilst we're recording, then a great timescale would be to use the profit diary techniques to make a ton of cash by Christmas."
Here are the various techniques Shapps has used to deal with the Michael Green story, before finally admitting today he was still using the pseudonym while he was an MP:
1) Outright denial
(Watch from 04:15)
In an LBC interview just weeks ago, Shapps repeatedly denied operating as Michael Green once he became an MP in 2005.
Over the course of the grilling, he says:
"Just to be clear, that was before I became an MP."
"It was before I came into politics, many years ago."
"I thought the discussion here was second jobs while people were MPs. So to be absolutely clear, I don't have a second job and have never had a second job whilst being an MP. End of story."
2) Skirt the issue
When he appeared on Sky's Dermot Murnaghan in September 2012, Shapps avoided an outright denial but gave the firm impression he had never done his internet entrepreneurship business while being an MP.
The Tory chairman said:
"That's right, before I went in to parliament I used to write business publications and, like many authors, write under a business name. I was always very open about it."
There are reports of similar efforts in the Brookmans Park residents' newsletter, according to a Labour MP. John Mann took to Twitter this morning to highlight the inconsistencies between Shapp's alleged comments to his constituents and his current admissions.
for additional clarity, my print biz now operates without my direct input, so I am a full time MP and completely focused on Welwyn Hatfield— John Mann MP (@JohnMannMP) March 16, 2015
that was Grant Shapps Brookmans Park residents newsletter as MP in 2005 @BBCr4today. 2/2— John Mann MP (@JohnMannMP) March 16, 2015
4 June 2005 and 16 March 2015 Shapps says he is full time MP, not working for his old business. In 2006 he is caught doing so. Time to go.— John Mann MP (@JohnMannMP) March 16, 2015
3) Threaten legal action
Political Scrapbook, which has done much of the heavy lifting on the Shapps story, told Politics.co.uk it received a total of seven separate legal letters from solicitors acting for the Tory chairman, calling for it to remove material from the website. Despite the warnings, no proceedings were initiated.
As editor Laurence Durnan told the Independent:
"This is pure and simple intimidation, designed to censor the publication of factually accurate stories which are strongly in the public interest."
Last November, the Tory chairman also reportedly used legal threats to force a local constituent to delete a post on Facebook about the use of the pseudonym. In papers seen by the Guardian, lawyers tell the constituent to also publish an apology saying:
"Mr Shapps MP has at no time misled over the use of a pen name. Indeed, I now understand that he openly published his full name alongside business publications making it clear that he used a pen name merely to separate business and politics, prior to entering parliament."
4) Get your mates to say it's an attack on business
No sooner had the story broken than Shapps' colleagues were taking to Twitter to brand it an anti-business attack by the BBC, the Guardian and Labour.
.@labourpress Old story: all properly declared at the time and all many years ago. Labour just hate business.— Grant Shapps MP (@grantshapps) March 15, 2015
Unbelievable Lab/Guard/BBC attack on @grantshapps. His sin not 2 use pseudonym but 2 write books about how 2 create wealth - shock horror...— Jeremy Hunt (@Jeremy_Hunt) March 16, 2015
5) Run away
When Shapps was asked questions about Michael Green and his business operation – including whether he had made up some of the customer satisfaction quotes on the website – by Channel 4's Michael Crick, he adopted a new tactic: running away. Watch for the moment he opens the door to a room with no escape and is forced to reconsider his strategy.
6) Develop a new lexicon
In an interview with the BBC this morning, Shapps inadvertently developed a new euphemism when he admitted he "over-firmly" denied having a second job.
Tory sources say @grantshapps did not regard post as "a second job" - as company was being wound up and more "a hobby on the side"— norman smith (@BBCNormanS) March 16, 2015
A spokesman for the Conservative party said:
"Like many authors and journalists, Grant wrote with a pen name. This was completely transparent: his full name and biographical details were permanently published on the company’s main website.
"Given that this was a decade ago, and was mentioned during the cut and thrust of an interview, he referenced that his writing career had ended when he became an MP: in fact it ended shortly afterwards."