Who is new Defence Secretary Grant Shapps? Why has Rishi Sunak appointed him - Michael Green alias explained
Grant Shapps used to use a pseudonym of Michael Green to sell get-rich-quick guides
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Shapps has held five senior Cabinet positions in the last year, previously serving as Transport, Home (for six days) and Business, as well as Energy and now Defence.
In a letter to the Prime Minister, Ben Wallace said: “The Ministry of Defence is back on the path to being once again world class with world class people. The United Kingdom is respected around the world for our armed forces and that respect has only grown more since the war in Ukraine.”
Upon his appointment, Shapps took to social media to say he was ‘honoured’ to be appointed by Rishi Sunak and to pay tribute to the outgoingWallace. But who is the new Defence Secretary, what is his political career and why has Rishi Sunak chosen him despite his controversial record?
Who is Grant Shapps?
Grant Shapps was born in 1968 and grew up in Coxley Green, a suburb of Rickmansworth in Hertfordshire. BBC News reports that Shapps went to Watford Grammar School for Boys where he achieved five ‘O’ Levels. He later studied Business and Finance at Cassio College in Watford before obtaining a Higher National Diploma in the same subject from Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU).
Shapps comes from a family of Jewish heritage and his cousin, Mick Jones, was a founding member of British punk-rock groups the Clash and Big Audio Dynamite. After Russia invaded Ukraine, Shapps hosted a Ukrainian family at his house in Hertfordshire for over a year.
What is Grant Shapps’ political career?
According to an interview with the Guardian, Grant Shapps’ political career started in 1990, when, barely 20, he stood as a Conservative council candidate for a Labour-held seat in Old Moat ward on Manchester City Council - finishing in second place. Four years later, he got closer to winning a Labour-held council seat in St Andrews ward in Brent, north-west London, but missed out by 103 votes.
Shapps eventually stood as an MP for North Southwark and Bermondsey in 1997 but was unsuccessful. His second attempt at becoming an MP came at the 2001 general election but he lost again while contesting the Welwyn Hatfield seat.
In 2005, Grant contested the Welwyn Hatfield seat again and after a successful bid of local campaigning, he defeated Labour MP and Minister for Public Health, Melanie Johnson. Upon supporting David Cameron’s fight to become party leader, Shapps was named vice chairman of the Conservative Party.
Six year’s after successfully getting re-elected at the 2010 General Election, Shapps decided to support Cameron again in opposing the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. However, following the referendum Shapps wrote in the Brexit Central, “I was a Remainer, but I have embraced the new direction of the country. I am backing Brexit all the way, as hard as you like, and I’m bullish about the UK’s future.”
In 2019, Boris Johnson appointed Shapps Secretary of State for Transport, a position he retained the following year during a Cabinet reshuffle. In 2022, Shapps launched a bid for leadership of the Conservative Party, to replace the outgoing Boris Johnson but he subsequently withdrew from the race and backed current PM Rishi Sunak.
Following the resignation of Liz Truss, Shapps was removed from his very brief spell in the Home Office and appointed as Business Secretary under Rishi Sunak’s new government. In February earlier this year, Shapps became the Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero - a position held until August 3, when Rishi Sunak appointed him as the new Defence Secretary.
Why did Rishi Sunak appoint Grant Shapps as Defence Secretary?
As the Spectator reports, there are numerous reasons why Rishi Sunak might have chosen Grant Shapps to replace former Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace. Shapps has displayed loyalty to Sunak, backing him in his initial bid for leadership and also has experience in the Home Office under Liz Truss - a role he didn’t get to properly fulfil due to her resignation.
Shapps also served as Chair of the Ukraine All-Party Parliamentary Group and has already pledged support for Ukraine against Russia in his newly-held position. He's also seen as a safe pair of hands in the media, and during the pandemic had to front up for the government over Dominic Cummings and Partygate. Finally, the role of Defence Secretary is typically rewarded to experienced ministers and Shapps clearly has that.
Why might Grant Shapps’ appointment be controversial?
Since becoming an MP in 2005, Grant Shapps has been involved in a number of controversial situations.
In 2015, almost six month after he was appointed as Minister of State at the Department for International Development, Shapps stepped down due to allegations he had ignored bullying from within the Conservative Party. The Guardian reported Baroness Warsi, former Chair of the Conservative Party, had written to Shapps to raise concerns about bullying within the party from former candidate Mark Clarke.
In 2018, the Financial Times reported that it had discovered a ‘secret deal’ between Shapps and British blockchain company OpenBrix worth up to £700,000. Shapps later resigned from his position as chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on blockchain.
What is Grant Shapps' alias Michael Green?
In 2015, Shapps admitted running a get-rich-quick scheme after he became an MP. He used the pseudonym Michael Green to give advice, and in recordings uncovered by the Guardian claimed he could make people "a ton of cash by Christmas".
In the recording, Shapps uses the Green alias to flog his guides saying it "is not a cheap product, but it's a great internet marketing product". Just before the story broke, Shapps told LBC he "never had a second job whilst being an MP".
At the time, he said he used a "business name" and that everything was properly declared. A Tory spokesman said the reference in the LBC interview was a mistake.