The Observer revealed yesterday that the former Housing Minister and new Tory party chairman Grant Shapps deleted Wikipedia references to donations from property interests to his private office.
He did so secretly, breaking the online encyclopedia’s code of practice which urges that those changing information in personal entries first identify themselves.
The original entry, the Wikipedia biography said: “It was revealed in May 2008 that Grant Shapps, along with other shadow ministers, had taken large donations from companies related to his frontbench portfolio … The revelations were potentially damaging for Shapps given the extent of the donations he had received – tens of thousands of pounds from two online mortgage brokers, an estate agent, a commercial property developer and a firm of solicitors specialising in conveyancing and remortgaging – and the suggestion that these might be influencing Conservative policies.”
Shapps scrapped sections 152 and 156 of the Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002 when he came into office, and consistently blocked any attempt at leasehold reform in spite of unanimity in the sector that this was necessary. Even the powerful British Property Federation issued a statement to the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership saying that it was in favour.
The section referred to a letter Shapps sent to the parliamentary commissioner in 2008 admitting that industry donations were used to run the private office of the holder of his Tory housing brief, although many were said to have been recruited during the tenure of Shapps’s predecessor, Michael Gove.
Shapps also removed references to “a number of an unfortunate gaffes”, and a resume of his modest educational career at Watford grammar school for boys where the site had claimed he “obtained four O-levels including an A in CDT (Craft, Design & Technology”.
Jack Dromey, the Labour shadow housing minister, said Shapps gave “hubris a bad name”, adding: “Grant Shapps can’t hide from his past. Both he and the Conservative party were too close to Tory developers lavishing support on them.”
Curiously, the Guardian on Saturday ran an article stating that Google hadblacklisted a network of websites run by Shapps’ family for breaching its rules on copyright infringement.
A string of at least 19 sites run by the wife, sister or 75-year-old mother of Shapps have been banned from carrying Google’s adverts and been relegated to the bottom of its search results.
Google has placed the websites on a blacklist of sites found guilty of breaching its rules after the Guardian exposed one of the sites selling software to help others breach copyright regulations.
The network of websites, which includes howto-findhappiness.com and meaning-of-dreams.com, breached the rules by replicating content from other sites in a process known as “spinning and scraping” in order to jump higher up Google’s search rankings and increase advertising revenue.
The ban means the websites owned by Shapps’s wife, Belinda, will no longer be able to carry adverts via Google’s AdSense network, and have been demoted to the bottom of Google’s index, which will make them very hard to find.
“We take copyright very seriously and invest significant time and money in keeping advertisers and publishers that violate our policies out of our network,” it said in a statement. “Google bans ads and advertisers involved in activities that infringe on copyright from using our systems and prohibits publishers that violate copyright from participating in AdSense.”