Tory chairman Grant Shapps has been forced to admit that he did work as a "get rich quick" web marketer under the pseudonym "Michael Green" after entering parliament - after a cringe-worthy audio was revealed of him talking about his "Stinking Rich" venture.
Shapps told the BBC he had "screwed up" and admitted he had "over firmly denied" the existence of his second job when pressed by the media.
Over-firmly denied... Potentially a splendid addition to the bumper book of political euphemisms from Grant Shapps— Sam Macrory (@sammacrory) March 16, 2015
Congratulations to Grant Shapps for "over-firmly denied," possibly the greatest ever euphemism for lying, ever made.— Adam Bienkov (@AdamBienkov) March 16, 2015
Lol Shapps admitting 'over-firmly denied'. Opens way for future defence of 'you can't do me I denied it but not over-firmly you can't do me'— Archie Bland (@archiebland) March 16, 2015
The audio, recorded in 2006 which was a year after he entered parliament and published by the Guardian today, includes Shapps talking about how listeners can make a "ton of cash by Christmas".
Shapps used to run the HowToCorp website - a 'get-rich-quick' internet marketing guide. The recording sees him speaking to a fellow entrepreneur Peter Twist, and talking about expanding the company, at a time when he was allegedly winding it down. He talks on the audio about hiring more staff, and plugs his e-book "Stinking Rich 3".
In one exchange, the Tory chairman, using the name Michael, actually admits he is "in politics".
MICHAEL: I mean that would be a very sensible time scale. Other people might say, ‘No, I’m just going to run this over the summer’ — there could be all sorts of approaches. But, yeah, it’s pretty flexible as the listeners are going to hear pretty soon.
PETER: Now I think what I always like to point out about yourself is that before people start saying things like, ‘Oh, I’m so busy. I’m on holiday’ and everything — I’ve got to explain that you were involved very heavily in public life so this kind of a — possibly quiet time for you where you don’t have to be in parliament and such so.
MICHAEL: Well, there is that, but I mean basically this is a hobby for me. This is — when I want to — it probably sounds like a strange hobby for some people — but when I want to get away and I want to relax from the daily hustle and bustle of politics and what have you — then for me — for my weekend or whatever when I am not doing that stuff — this is relaxation for me. This is how I relax. I do internet marketing to relax. How about that?
But asked about second jobs on LBC last month, Shapps said: "To be absolutely clear I don't have a second job and I have never had a second job whilst being an MP. End of story."
This is the moment he denied it:
Shapps insisted that it was an "old story" and the story was just Labour being "anti-business".
.@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
Labour and Tory MPs were at war on the airwaves and on Twitter this morning.
Labour don't like fact @grantshapps is a business success. They hate that he's a great party chairman who'll defeat them in May.— Graham Stuart MP (@grahamstuart) March 16, 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
I really don't know how Grant Shapps or should I say Michael Green has got away with the two names thing. It totally astounds me.— Heidi Alexander (@heidi_mp) March 16, 2015
It's not pro-business for an MP to do a 2nd job & insist he doesn't have one. It's not anti-business to ask for answers when he's found out.— Stewart Wood (@StewartWood) March 16, 2015
No, Michael Green, business does not require lying, adopting aliases or selling get-filthy-rich-quick schemes.— Chris Bryant (@ChrisBryantMP) March 16, 2015
Hilarious by top Tories like Hunt claiming Lab/BBC/Guard anti-business re Shapps. Nope Shapps caught red-handed re his Michael Green claims— Jonathan Ashworth MP (@JonAshworth) March 16, 2015
So a Tory Chairman who is never off the media, is now refusing to answer ?s about his apparently dodgy account of his past. @BBCr4today— Ben Bradshaw (@BenPBradshaw) March 16, 2015
Karl Turner, shadow solicitor general, 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."
A Conservative party spokesman 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."
Labour MP John Mann said Shapps should resign. "The Government made a big play after the expenses scandal of bringing back integrity to politics and this does the exact opposite," he told BBC Radio 4's Today.
"You can't have a government minister who isn't honest and breaches one of those standards. That's what the standards are there for. He has breached them and he should go as Minister without Portfolio."