A host of the Conservative Party’s most influential ministers and backbenchers have thrown their hat into the ring to replace ousted Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The likes of Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, ex-Chancellor Rishi Sunak and former Health Secretary Sajid Javid are among 11 candidates already vying for Downing Street. It promises to be a tense battle for power, with the candidates set to be whittled down to just two over the coming weeks. Currently, Mr Sunak stands as the bookies’ favourite to take over from Mr Johnson.
Among the other candidates announcing their intentions to run for No 10 include Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, who told the Sunday Times he’d rule out an early general election were he successful in his bid.
Mr Shapps, who served in both Mr Johnson and former Prime Minister David Cameron’s Cabinets, claimed he had “not spent the last few turbulent years plotting or briefing against the Prime Minister”.
He added: “I tell you this: for all his flaws – and who is not flawed? – I like Boris Johnson.
“I have never, for a moment, doubted his love of this country.”
While Mr Shapps is not among the early favourites for Prime Minister, he would appear an experienced head with years of Cabinet experience.
But Mr Shapps’ time in Government has not been without controversy.
In 2015, it emerged the 53-year-old had carried on a second job under the pseudonym Michael Green as a “multimillion-dollar web marketer”, for at least a year after he was first elected as MP for Welwyn Hatfield in 2005.
Mr Shapps denied the allegations, but a Guardian investigation in 2015 found a recording from the summer of 2006, in which the MP promised to make people “a ton of cash by Christmas”.
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It also emerged that claims he was winding down the operation of his company at the time were false – Mr Shapps appeared to be expanding the firm.
The Guardian investigation found that Mr Shapps posed as Mr Green during a sales pitch with a fellow web businessman, Peter Twist, not revealing his true identity throughout the interaction.
Reports show that when Mr Shapps’ representatives were approached with the audio footage, it was confirmed that “his writing career [as Green]… ended shortly after [becoming an MP]”.
Rows over MPs having second jobs alongside their role as a Member of Parliament have dominated Westminster discussion for decades, and the issue was reignited during Boris Johnson’s tenure as Prime Minister, with allegations of profiteering in the House of Commons.
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Under the Parliamentary rules, MPs are permitted to hold jobs outside of their work as politicians, but all external employment and earnings must be properly registered.
Mr Shapps’ entry in the register of members’ interest for 2005 and 2006 lists his directorships and shareholdings in How To Corp, the marketing company then fronted by Michael Green.
But in 2012, when pictures emerged of Mr Shapps in 2004 at a conference where he was photographed wearing a badge describing himself as “Michael Green” he insisted he had stopped being Green after he took his seat in the Commons.
In 2015, a discussion between Mr Shapps and LBC’s Shelagh Fogarty saw the journalist receive three denials from the then-Conservative Party chairman, that he had worked as Mr Green after 2005.
He said: “I thought the discussion here was second jobs whilst people are MPs.
“To be absolutely clear. I don’t have a second job. And I have never had a second job whilst I being an MP. End of story.”
But, days later a spokesperson for Mr Shapps, and the Conservative Party, corrected the politicians stance.
They added: “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.”
In response, Labour’s then-Shadow Solicitor General, Karl Turner, said: “It beggars belief that the chairman of the Conservative party went on live radio just three weeks ago and stated three times that he was not doing business as Michael Green while he was an MP, when new reports and audio tonight show quite clearly that he did.
“It seems that Mr Shapps’ repeated denials, which were not in the heat of the moment but also included a calculated decision to instruct solicitors, were contrary to the facts. He also appears to have threatened legal action on the basis of this.
“David Cameron must now order an immediate inquiry into Mr Shapps’ conduct and establish all the facts in the interest of the public.”