Ex-defence secretary with rock star relative loses seat

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Ex-defence secretary with rock star relative loses seat

Former national president of the Jewish youth organisation BBYO Grant Shapps has lost his Welwyn Hatfield seat to Labour

Grant Shapps arrives for a Cabinet meeting
Grant Shapps arrives for a Cabinet meeting

Grant Shapps had professed his pride in a “record of real results” in a constituency he has held since 2005.

But the long-standing Conservative has lost his Welwyn Hatfield seat to Labour.

While a key figure in the Tory party for decades, having been appointed vice-chairman in 2005, it was after the 2019 election win that he became higher-profile in Government.

He has held five Cabinet positions since then – from the roles of transport secretary and home secretary to energy security secretary as well as business secretary, and most recently defence secretary.

After a short-lived Tory leadership bid in 2022, Mr Shapps became a major backer of Liz Truss’s rival Rishi Sunak in that contest.

Mr Shapps is said to have recorded Tory colleagues’ doubts about Ms Truss in a running spreadsheet, wielded on a pricey foldable smartphone.

He oversaw the transport department during the Covid-19 pandemic and the ensuing airport chaos as travel resumed, and faced criticism for failing to engage with unions over industrial action.

With his local grammar school education and a rock star relative who played guitar for The Clash, the 53-year-old has a slightly different background from many of his contemporaries at the top of the Conservative Party.

After years of soaring through the Tory ranks, his rapid rise stalled during the 2015 general election campaign when he was accused of anonymously editing his own entry and those of other Conservative politicians on internet encyclopaedia Wikipedia.

Then-prime minister David Cameron stood by him and Mr Shapps called the allegations “bonkers”, while Wikipedia later found no definitive evidence linking Mr Shapps to the account used to amend the entries.

But the damage was done and Mr Shapps was removed as party chairman and made a minister at the Department for International Development – a move widely seen as a demotion.

Just months before the Wikipedia scandal, Mr Shapps was accused of having breached the codes of conduct for ministers and MPs when it was revealed he held a second job after entering parliament.

He was exposed as having continued working as a marketer of get-rich-quick schemes under the pseudonym Michael Green.

Mr Shapps had been politically ambitious from a young age.

While his family leaned more towards music – brother Andre Shapps played keyboards with post-punk band Big Audio Dynamite and his cousin, Mick Jones, was a founder member of The Clash – Mr Shapps found his passion in politics, becoming national president of the Jewish youth organisation BBYO.

In his early 20s, he set up a marketing and printing business before contesting his first parliamentary seat in 1997.

In 2007, he became shadow housing minister and following the 2010 general election – in which he retained his seat with a majority of more than 17,000 – he served as minister of state for housing and local government, being appointed to the Privy Council that June.

In September 2012, he was appointed co-chairman of the Conservative Party, and also held the position of minister without portfolio at the Cabinet Office.

Born in Hertfordshire, Mr Shapps grew up in the area and was educated at Watford Grammar School and Manchester Polytechnic.

He is married with three children.

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