Grant Shapps and the strange password story

Conservative politician Grant Shapps is a man of many guises. Not all under his own name and many of which have led others to ridicule him.

But for a while in the earlier part of this century he frequent tussled with Liberal Democrats during Parliamentary by-elections. That included making claims which, when pushed to provide evidence for, he admitted he couldn’t substantiate.

But perhaps the strangest incident was the one about his password.

Back in 2007 during the Ealing Southall by-election, where Lib Dems and Conservatives were battling to present themselves as the main rivals to Labour, this comment appeared under a Lib Dem film on YouTube:

Okay, realistically we’re not going to win though. Especially since the Tories have just received 5 defecting Councillors from Labour. Don’t quite know how they’ve done it, but the Tories have stolen a march on us this time.

As I wrote at the time:

With phrases such as “us” this is clearly written as if from a Liberal Democrat member or supporter.

But according to YouTube the comment was posted by a “GrantShapps” (look just above the comment for the name), which is the name of the Conservative MP for Welwyn Hatfield, Shadow Housing Minister and their Ealing Southall by-election campaign supremo.

A forged name perhaps? Except that click on the name and it takes you through to Grant Shapps’s genuine YouTube profile: http://uk.youtube.com/user/GrantShapps

And yes, I know it is his genuine YouTube account because it is the one linked to from his own website, http://www.shapps.com/

The obvious interpretation was that he was trying to fake a comment to make it look like it was from a Lib Dem when it was actually from himself, but forgot to check who he was logged in as.

But perhaps there was a more innocent explanation?

Iain Dale put the story to Grant Shapps and got this explanation:

I went to the horse’s mouth and have got a categoric denial that Grant did anything of the sort. It appears that he had a very easily guessable password on his Youtube account (it was 1234 !!!) and someone hacked into it. A CCHQ spokesman said… “We have absolutely no idea how this post appeared, however it does appear someone has been accessing his account. The short password has now been changed to something more secure. In past two days he has removed a number of posts from his own YouTube videos which had appeared without authorisation. We will be monitoring the account carefully and can’t rule out the activities of our opponents.”

Which was an explanation that left some questions hanging as it’s not clear that YouTube allowed such passwords to be set even back then, though perhaps the actual password was mangled in the reporting or it was meant metaphorically, as in the password was a simple as 1234…

At the election count I found myself stood next to Grant Shapps and so did the decent thing of introducing myself. I didn’t get the warmest of responses. After the Conservatives lost the by-election, Shapps himself lost his role in running their by-election campaigns.

But anyway, given his latest role let’s hope he has better passwords these days.


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