Former Conservative Party Chairman Grant Shapps has failed to unmask a mystery Wikipedia contributor who he alleges altered his page, because key emails were deleted. Shapps has alleged the incident proves “collusion” against him.
Shapps faced accusations in the run-up to May’s election that he was the man behind “Contribsx”, a contributor who was suspiciously keen to protect Shapps’s reputation while writing embarrassing information about his colleagues.
Contribsx removed information critical of Grant Shapps from his Wikipedia page such as a large section about the business he ran under the pseudonym Michael Green. The contributor also added a quote describing Shapps as an “expenses saint” and removed previous accusations of Shapps editing the page.
Shapps said in the run up to the election: “It’s absolutely nothing to do with me. It’s just ridiculous. It looks like an extreme dirty tricks campaign designed to do anything but talk about policies.”
The user also added critical or embarrassing information about several of Shapps’s colleagues, including a paragraph about how Justine Greening – now his boss – failed to take part in a crucial vote over UK military intervention in Syria because she missed the division bell.
Contribsx also wrote that Conservative MP Alan Duncan was “distinctly pro-Palestinian” and had “found himself under pressure to remove a video of himself accusing Israel of a ‘land grab’ in the occupied territories”, and also wrote that Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond had failed to vote in favour of gay marriage.
Following the revelations, the story took a further twist after it was revealed that Contribsx had been banned from Wikipedia by an editor, Richard Symonds, who is also a Liberal Democrat activist.
In a bid to prove his innocence, Shapps filed a request under the Data Protection Act for any information on him held by the Wikipedia Trust. The company responded by sending him 80 pages of data, but failed to include any online chats about Symonds and Contribsx apart from one heavily redacted email.
Stone King, lawyers for the Wikipedia Trust, told Shapps that everything else had been “deleted in the normal course of business”.
Shapps furiously responded that the deletion of the emails was “highly suspect”. He told The Independent that the messages would have proved “collusion” to “trump up a story” against him in the run up to the election.
Grant Shapps was sacked as party chairman after the election and moved to the Department for International Development, where he is now a junior minister.