Shapps, Green or Fox? Housing Minister mired in Google stitch-up ruckus
Published by 24publishing for 24dash.com in Central Government and also in Housing
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The Housing Minister Grant Shapps is coming under pressure after revelations that he set up a business selling software that breaks Google's regulations - and that he has posed under various aliases on the internet.
The Guardian has claimed that Shapps' company sold the TrafficPaymaster software, which plagiarises content from other sites to generate advertising revenue from Google.
Though not illegal, such activities are forbidden by Google under the terms of its AdSense policy.
The Guardian has claimed that in 2007, Shapps - who was posing under the name 'Michael Green' - offered the software for $200, explaining that users could expect to see revenues of $20,000.
Shapps' online business, 'HowToCorp', which is officially run by his wife Belinda, also refers to a certain 'Sebastian Fox', who is rumoured to be yet another of the MP's online personas.
Shapps' ever lengthening rap sheet of apparent internet mishaps already includes accusations of 'sock-puppeting' - in which it is claimed he pretended to be somebody else as a tactic in an election campaign. He was apparently rumbled on that occasion when he accidentally logged into the hoax account under his own name.
Two months ago he was accused by Lord Prescott of using 'bots' to boost his follower count on the social media site Twitter.
In reaction to the news, Labour MP Steve McCabe has written to the Permanent Secretary of the Department of Communities and Local Government, Sir Bob Kerslake, seeking answers. In the letter, McCabe quotes part of an email from 'Michael Green' to potential customers:
"Everybody dreams, and every dream means something, no matter how fragmentary and ridiculous it may appear. It may be symbolic of something deep-seated in the personality of YOU the dreamer, or may indicate something trivial, but in every case, the dream has a meaning, which can only be discovered through an analysis of the dream itself. Sometimes the successful analysis of your dreams can lead to answers regarding deep seated questions about your life. While on other occasions your dreams may appear nutty, fragmented, or even completely mad! But how can YOU find out what your dreams actually mean?"
McCabe's chief interest in the matter is Shapps' current position as regards his declarations of interests. He asks: "The Ministerial Code requires, at 7.3, that new Ministers must provide the Permanent Secretary with a full list in writing of all interests which might be thought to give rise to a conflict, also covering relevant interests of a spouse or partner. Did Mr Shapps do this?"
McCabe also wishes to know if Shapps - who is currently tipped for a promotion to the cabinet in a forthcoming government reshuffle - accessed the howtocorp.com, howtocorphelp.com or any affiliated websites from departmental computers.