Conservative Intelligence

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Grant Shapps

Position: Minister for Housing

Last Updated: Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

Throughout his time covering housing as a shadow minister from 2007 and as the Minister of State since the general election, Grant Shapps has gained the respect of stakeholders in the arena for the enthusiasm with which he has taken on board the portfolio and the way in which he has accrued expertise in the field.

In government, he has overseen the abolition of home information packs and is promoting house-building by return decision-making powers on housing and planning to local communities, which in turn will see the benefits of welcoming new homes through the New Homes Bonus. Meanwhile, the house-building process is being made far less bureaucratic where communities give such proposals the green light.

On the social housing front, he is introducing a new National Home Swap Scheme, whilst allowing councils to prioritise those with local connections for social housing. He is also promoting an innovative Tenant Cashback scheme which will reward social tenants who sort out their own home repairs and maintenance.

So he’s had a pretty full in-tray, yet has increasingly been used by the party of late as a spokesman in the media on all manner of topics.

This has only gone to further fuel the regular speculation that he is first in line to be promoted to the Cabinet when David Cameron conducts a reshuffle. In opposition, Shapps had in fact been afforded a seat at the shadow cabinet table wearing his shadow housing cap.

One role with which his name has been linked is that of party chairman, which is not unsurprising given his personal record as a constituency campaigner. He has demonstrated an incredible grasp of pavement politics in his Welwyn Hatfield seat over the last decade: he first contested the seat in 2001 and lost to the incumbent Labour MP by just over 1,000 votes. But on swings of more than 8% and 11% respectively at the next two elections, he gained and retained the seat based on the Hertfordshire New Towns of Welwyn Garden City and Hatfield, now holding it with a majority of over 17,000.

Watford born and bred, Shapps attended Manchester Polytechnic and went into business, setting up his own successful design and printing firm.

His first outing as a parliamentary candidate was in 1997 when he stood against Simon Hughes in Southwark North and Bermondsey, and it was  two years later that he was selected for the Welwyn Hatfield seat.

After his election to Parliament in 2005, Shapps was a keen supporter of David Cameron’s bid for the Tory leadership and was rewarded on his man’s victory by being appointed the party vice chairman responsible for campaigning. 

Arguably the low point of his time in that post was overseeing the infamous Ealing Southall by-election campaign where the candidate was branded as representing “David Cameron’s Conservatives”, yet still came in a poor third, despite much hype.    

Shapps remained in that role until July 2007, when he was given the housing portfolio in the Communities and Local Government team.

One of the first Tory MPs to embrace Twitter, he also has an eye for getting media coverage – for example, sleeping rough in London on Christmas Eve in 2007.

He is married with three children – all conceived by IVF, a subject he has written and spoken about on a number of occasions. This came in the wake of him requiring chemotherapy to help beat Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1999.

Jonathan Isaby

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