Grant Shapps is the new defence secretary, after Rishi Sunak's cabinet reshuffle on Thursday morning.
That’s the same Grant Shapps who, in 2015, admitted that he made up a fake identity as a “multimillion-dollar web marketer” when he first became an MP in the mid-2000s. His pseudonym? Michael Green.
Why he thought to make up a fake name for himself while serving as an MP is anybody’s guess, but Shapps is clearly good at navigating choppy political waters. He’s held an eye-watering five (five!) cabinet jobs in the last 12 months.
The 54-year-old Shapps was transport secretary this time last year. Since then, he has been home secretary (for 6 days), business secretary, and then energy and net zero secretary, before taking his current job.
But despite being one of the government’s most seasoned politicians, Shapps is a pretty weird guy. From inventing a fake name to surreptitiously editing his own Wikipedia entry, here are the oddest things about him (that we know of):
Pretending to be Michael Green
Shapps’ second identity as Michael Green, a made-up web marketing guru, is as questionable as it is weird. Why would you do that?!
It turns out he’s also operated under the names Sebastian Fox and, hilariously, Corrine Stockheath, at various points in his career.
He denied having a pseudonym or a second job when he entered parliament, but in March 2015, Shapps was forced to admit to both after an investigation. In his admission, he said he had “over-firmly denied” having a second job.
Yeah, you got that right, Corinne.
His weird, weird books
Michael Green even wrote a book! The 20/20 Challenge eBook promises entrepreneurs they can make $20,000 in 20 days by creating their own online guide to making money to sell on to others.
If that sounds like a Ponzi scheme, it’s because it is.
After creating their own “toolkit”, readers are told to recruit one hundred “Joint Venture partners” to sell the product for a portion of the profits.
And while everything has a value in Michael Green’s unhinged money-making scheme, the cover of the eBook – Shapps, as a stock businessman, surfing on a dollar bill – is priceless.
Sadly, most of the evidence has now disappeared from the internet. But here's an old YouTube screengrab:
Shapps (or Michael Green) surfing a dollar bill on the front of his marketing eBookYouTube
Writing for BuzzFeed
Okay, we’d be a bit hypocritical if we said writing listicles is weird, per ce, but it is quite funny coming from Shapps.
To widespread derision at the time, he once tried his hand with a BuzzFeed piece about energy bills. The article included some hilarious pictures of Ed Miliband and a bizarre image of a cat that looks like it is about to catch fire.
The melting cat from Shapps' first article for BuzzFeedBuzzfeed
The piece went down like a lead balloon, so of course he wrote another one. This time, it was a rather dry post about English votes for English laws. Good effort, Grant.
His strange Wikipedia edits
It also turns out Shapps has, in the past, edited his own Wikipedia page. The edits in question? Removing the information about his grades at school.
According to The Observer, Shapps’ page once said that he “obtained four O-levels including an A in Craft, Design and Technology”, whereas he actually obtained five.
The Conservative Party didn’t disclose the grades he actually got – but judging from that incredible book cover, he was pretty damn good at designing stuff.
That same year, it was reported that Shapps, “or somebody acting on his behalf”, had been editing the entries of his rivals within the Tory party.
A user named “Contribsx” had systematically removed embarrassing references on Shapps’ Wikipedia page about the Michael Green debacle.
Meanwhile, the rest of the account’s changes involved adding unflattering changes to the pages of his political opponents, including prominent figures in the Tory party such as Philip Hammond, then-foreign secretary, Justine Greening, then-international development secretary, and Lynton Crosby, Conservative election campaign strategist.
Wikipedia suspended the account, saying such practices are not allowed. Shapps has denied the claims.
And finally, his incredible promo video for the railways
When he was transport secretary, Shapps thought this video was a good idea, in which he appears to be harassed by aliens, wears some stupid sunglasses and gets on the wrong train at King's Cross.
This is one whole minute of Grant Shapps/Michael Green/Corinne Stockheath trying to convince you to get on a train. And it's well worth your time at the top of this page.