Three questions for Grant Shapps.

So, Grant Shapps has admitted that he got his dates “screwed up” when he repeatedly and vociferously claimed not to have a second job as an MP. He has now admitted that he was working on his business, HowToCorp, as recently as 2006, a year after he became an MP. He has, in the past, claimed that the company continues without his “direct input”.

This claim, however, seems to be contradicted by various posts made by “HowToCorp” on the leading internet marketing website “Warrior Forum“. For example, here are a series of posts made about HowToCorp’s “TrafficPaymaster” product, throughout 2011 and 2012. The person posting as “HowToCorp” signs off these posts first of all as “Michael Green (and Seb Fox)”, and later as “Sebastian Fox”.

Both Michael Green and Sebastian Fox are thought to be business pseudonyms of Grant Shapps.

Then there’s this post, in which someone refers to “TrafficPaymaster” as being produced by a Michael Jones. The forum user “HowToCorp” corrects this error, stating –

That’s confusing as Michael Jones is NOT the Michael Green from HowToCorp that this Michael Green/Seb Fox product refers to. So that’s an unrelated product from a different stable.

It’s worth noting at this point that Grant Shapps was made Conservative Party Chairman on 4th September, 2012. HowToCorp’s last post on Warrior Forum was made less than a month earlier, on 7th August 2012. Also, a great number of HowToCorp’s posts have been edited, with all original text removed, replaced by “Product no longer availablethis product is only available to existing clients“. These forum edits are timestamped as having being made on 30th September 2012,nearly four weeks after Shapps was made Party Chairman.

I should also point out this Adrian Short blog about an extraordinary offer, “from the desk of Michael Green”, in which “Michael Green” (or his autonomous desk) tries to sell PDF scans of a 1915 book about Freudian dream analysis for $30 a pop. This website – – was also shut down just before Shapps was promoted, although it now redirects to a different URL, offering a somewhat Shapps-like “free” ebook in exchange for an email address.

So, bearing the above in mind, there are some questions that Grant Shapps clearly needs to answer.

1. Who are Michael Green and Sebastian Fox?

2. If they are not pseudonyms of Mr Shapps, can Mr Shapps arrange for the people who were posting as Mr Green and/or Mr Fox on Warrior Forum to come forward?

3. Why were Traffic Paymaster,, and the majority of HowToCorp’s internet forum postings shut down around the time that Mr. Shapps was made Tory Party Chairman?

No doubt Mr Shapps can answer all of these questions, and his defence that he got his dates “screwed up” would be believable. Of course, if he can’t answer these questions, then it seems apparent that he was actively working on HowToCorp up until he was made Party Chairman, and his claim to have “screwed up” his dates would then be an obvious lie.


Farage, Rotherham, statistics.

Another day, another attempt by Nigel Farage to exploit the Charlie Hebdo attacks for political gain. Here he is on Fox News, lying to Sean Hannity.

Just 218 seconds, and yet if I tried to document and refute every lie Farage spouts in that short period, I’d be here for weeks. Instead, I’ll focus on just one lie. Here’s the quote –

In parts of Northern England, we’ve seen the sexual grooming scandal of underage girls, committed by Muslim men, in the majority

Ah, yes. Rotherham. A town in South Yorkshire, which is nowadays famous for one thing: The Rotherham Sexual Grooming Scandal, something else that Farage likes to exploit (if you’ll excuse the phrase) for political advantage. The word Rotherham is never far from his lips, dog-whistle style, held up as an example of how multiculturalism is ruining Britain. His supporters also reference these awful crimes constantly; they have now become celebrated political weapons for Islamophobes, deployed at every opportunity. Farage’s tactic of repeatedly blaming immigration and multiculturalism for what happened in Rotherham is starting to cement the idea in the public’s mind that child sexual exploitation is an almost exclusively Muslim phenomenon. The only problem with this idea is that it’s complete and utter horseshit.

In 2012, the excellent charitable organisation JUST submitted a Freedom of Information request to West Yorkshire Police, asking for statistics on the ethnic background of men charged with child sexual exploitation in the three years preceding May 2012. The results would surprise Farage; 47 Whites, 5 Asians, 1 Black. The following year, Martin Berry submitted a FOI request to West Yorkshire Police for the same stats covering the period between May 2012 and September 2013; the results showed 152 out of the 183  people charged in that period were White, compared to 20 Asians.

Now, despite what you may hear on Fox News, like Birmingham, West Yorkshire is predominantly white British, so the statistics should skew towards majority White British perpetrators. However, the West Yorkshire area includes Bradford, which has the largest Muslim population in Britain outside of London, so the West Yorkshire Police is clearly a highly statistically relevant force. According to the 2011 census, the West Yorkshire Metropolitan Area is 10.21% Asian/British Asian, and according to West Yorkshire Police’s own statistics, 10.5% of the men they charged with CSE offences between May 2009 and September 2012 were of Asian origin. (Obviously, we should not assume that they were of Muslim origin, or that there were no Muslims among the non-Asians, but it’s probably safe to assume that Farage is less careful about conflating race and religion).

Why, it’s almost as if someone’s religious background has almost no bearing on the chances of them being involved in child sexual exploitation! Now, who’s going to tell Nigel?

I should really blog about something.

If only to shift the stuff about Di Canio below the fold. I feel a bit bad about singling B. Ronay out in that way, he’s one of the best football journalists around. I was just REALLY REALY REALLY REALLY angry about Paolo Di Canio. Still am, to be honest.

Anyway. Let’s try and decide which Talking Heads song is the best Talking Heads song.


An Open Letter to Barney Ronay

Dear Barney;

First of all, let me apologise for singling you out in this way. Something snapped, and your article – Only surprise about Mourinho’s return is people think it’s a good idea – was the final straw. This letter could have been addressed to any football journalist, had they written the wrong piece at the wrong time, so please don’t take this too personally. Let me also state that you write beautifully, and are unquestionably one of the best journalists working in football today.

Unfortunately, that has just made your failure to write about the right things even more irritating, and now you’re choosing to compound that by inviting us to share your irritation that the underlying football narrative  is dominated by trivia. This would be easier to take  if you weren’t writing the narrative.

So let’s talk about Paolo Di Canio, shall we? If you can divert your tired eyes from Mourinho for just one second.

You did well, at first.  During the four days when the Guardian noticed that Paolo Di Canio was a fascist, you managed to sneak a reasonably thoughtful and well-written piece about Di Canio past your editor. I say “reasonably” because there was one paragraph so appallingly idiotic that it seemed like it came from a different article, perhaps written by a Daily Express leader writer. Here it is:

In spite of which it is still necessary to deal with the issue of timing. Why now, many have asked? Di Canio has been manager of Swindon for two years without complaint. This is undoubtedly a valid wider gripe and there is an excellent point to be made about the lack of attention paid to events in the lower leagues. But the fact is this debate is happening now, and it is happening, rightly or wrongly, simply because Sunderland is a grander concern, more widely seen, more widely supported and reported. If Di Canio were to declare himself a fascist while running a suburban corner shop it would seem less of a pastoral, representative issue than if he were to do so as a director of Tesco. It is the same question of degree and scale that applies to all things.

Several points. Firstly: if you’re going to write about scale, then you need to use the correct scales. Swindon Town are not analagous to a suburban corner shop. Swindon Town are a football club who have sold over 200,000 tickets at their stadium this season, which I’m pretty sure will make them the single biggest provider of leisure activities in Swindon (population: 209,000). You appear to have confused Swindon Town Football Club with Tonbridge Angels.

Secondly: if Paolo Di Canio were to declare himself a fascist while running an actual suburban corner shop, it would be news, because he’s Paolo Di Canio, a highly recognisable name and dependable source of column inches. Your suggestion that the affairs of this “colourful” “character” had somehow slipped below The Guardian‘s radar in League One would carry more weight if The Guardian hadn’t printed two separate articles about his overcoat while you were ignoring him:

Paolo Di Canio’s sartorial elegance out of place on Swindon catwalk

Paolo Di Canio is reviving the legacy of Jose Mourinho’s coat

This, of course, compares favourably with the zero articles that The Guardian published about Di Canio’s alleged racial abuse of one of his own players while at Swindon. Something doesn’t add up here, but you’re not alone; the only national newspaper to report the Tehoue story was the Daily Mail. Which brings me to my third point: The matter of Paolo Signorelli’s funeral.

Either your search function is broken, or this next story wasn’t reported in The Guardian. In fact, as far as I can tell it was only reported by the Mail and the Sun, which is probably why I missed it until last weekend. Maybe you missed it too? Here, have some links.

Di Canio says he’s not one… but why was he at the funeral of an Italian fascist bomber? (Daily Mail)

Paolo Di Canio at bomb fascist’s funeral (The Sun)

Is this newsworthy? I’d say so. The Guardian apparently disagrees. Granted, this funeral occurred shortly before Di Canio took over at Swindon, but shouldn’t you be asking him questions about this, and how it tallies with his claims not to be a fascist? Would The Guardian give John Terry such an easy ride, I wonder? Or is this just another example of how degree and scale apply to all thigs: does the very mention of John Terry instantly change the Sunderland manager’s status from director of Tescos to suburban corner shop owner?

To be honest, Barney, I’d far rather read about Jose Mourinho’s overcoats than Paolo Di Canio’s, but, as you rightly point out, it would be best if we could read about something less trivial. Which rather begs the question – why aren’t you writing it?

Introducing Mothpunts… dot com!

Just a quick note to flag up the fact that I’ve gone over to the dark side, and started charging money for my tips.

Why? Well, there’s a couple of reasons. One is that I need money. But more importantly, I’ve spent a good deal of time lolling around in the seedy underbelly of Twitter Tipsterism in the past few months, and I’ve come across so much bullshit that I’ve been compelled to offer a competing service that is both competitive, and a service. That’s a rare thing in Twitter Tipster land: there’s so much fraud going on out there, it’s outrageous. It will be interesting to see how an honest, successful service fares in the midst of it all.

There is a third reason – I’m planning on developing some betting-related web applications which will become part of the subscriber package. These are going to kick every available kind of arse, and when they launch I’m going to be raising the subscription cost substantially to reflect that fact, but those who sign up now (before the TOP SECRET apps are launched) will get a locked-in, lifetime subscription rate of £2 per month.

The (currently hideously ugly) website is here – M O T H P U N T S . C O M

Conviction-based tipping

OK, first of all, my attempts to guilt myself into posting by announcing an impending post have failed. The problem there is that the hypocrisy surrounding Di Canio makes me so angry that I can not write. Here’s the draft of my aborted post –


Alright, not really. Like all the best things in life, that’s actually an endlessly repeated Half Man Half Biscuit lyric.

Anyway, I haven’t brought you here to discuss Half Man Half Biscuit, or even Paolo Di Canio. Instead, I’m going to discuss the ongoing success of my #mothpunts, which, at the time of writing, are going extremely well. 63 punts, 28.61% ROI. It’s still a small sample size, but it’s rapidly getting less small. There aren’t many tipsters who can boast that sort of success rate.

I was looking over the numbers, and I noticed a couple of interesting things. I’ve had a good week with the tips, including a 14-1 correct score bet. That’s my second win on the correct score markets; the other was at 33-2. Those two windfalls give me a 20% strike rate from my 10 correct score bets, with an ROI somewhere north of 300%. (It’s early and I’m too tired to work out the actual figures. It’s like I’m in a right brain mode, except that whole left brain/right brain thing is a load of old bollocks).

Here’s the thing; when correct score tipping, I only ever back one unit, but when I’m tipping on match result markets (or over/under goals) I will vary my tip size. Sometimes 1 unit, or if I like the tip more than usual, 2, 3, or on one occasion 4 units. And it turns out that if we disregard the (wildly successful) correct score tips, my record when placing 1 unit tips is not good. Not good AT ALL.

Prior to this weekend, I’d posted 16 tips on match result or over/under markets… and they all lost.  The shortest price on a 1 unit 1×2 or O/U (jargon, there) punt is 2.96, and most are between 2/1 and 3/1. These are not bankers, then, by any means, but we’re also not in the realms of unicorn-chasing; to go 0-16 on bets in that price range is absolutely ridiculous, and definitely involves a significant degree of misfortune, but also, it must be admitted, a similarly significant degree of poor judgment on my part. Quite where the balance lies between these two influences is impossible to judge, but it’s a trend worth noting.

Aside: I say prior to this weekend because technically, I had my first single-unit match result winner on Sunday. I tipped Ajax for 1 unit at 3.55 on Betfair, but the odds then (inexplicably) drifted out to 4, which was so juicy I was compelled to do something I’ve never done before, and add a second tip for another 2 units at the improved price. I’m not sure how this affects the trends. Anyway –

Also of note is my record with multiunit bets. Prior to this confusing weekend, there have been 36 multiunit tips, and 15 have won. The odds vary from slightly odds-on to 5-1, but the average doesn’t look that different to the single unit punts, (again, I’m tired, and not working it out right now. Going by eye, I’d say there’s very little in it), so it doesn’t look like I’m weighting my tip sizes too much relative to the odds, and this leads me to the following conclusions –

  • I’m allowing intuition to guide my hand when making these decisions.
  • My intuition is pretty awesome. 
  • I should give some thought to swerving single unit 1×2 and O/U bets

The problem with the latter point being that if I do that, then the two-unit bets effectively become the one-unit bets. And then what do I do? NEVER BET AT ALL?

Maybe I’ll just carry on as I’m doing. Did I mention that my ROI is 28.61%? I did? Good. I guess I probably don’t need to tweak things too much right now.

Generic “been a bit quiet” post.

I’ve been a bit quiet recently. Apologies to anyone who expects daily updates. You must have me confused with a more prolific blogger.

I would have been more noisy over the Easter weekend, but I was detained in the North of England, visiting relatives. This was difficult for me, as certain EVENTS were HAPPENING and I wanted to RESPOND, but a combination of unfortunate events conspired to prevent me having internet access for five entire days.

I would just like to take this opportunity to finger the principal culprit – Asus. Especially the individual idiot or committee of idiots responsible for choosing to put the Nexus 7’s power socket on the bottom edge of the unit. I have now trashed two of these machines when a slight tug on the power cord has sent it hurtling to the floor, connector first, with predictable consequences.

Anyway. I’m back now, armed with a broadband connection and a desktop computer which only crashes intermittently. I shall now attempt to write something coherent about Paolo Di Canio. CAN IT BE DONE? TWO POSTS IN ONE DAY?





Fun with etymology

I’m still deep in the Ruby-hole. Amazing things are happening inside my hard drive, and I am beginning to harbour unrealistic hopes of unlimited wealth as a consequence. The potential for obscene financial reward is in fact so great that I don’t want to talk about what I’m doing in any detail. Suffice to say, I’m busy.

If you find yourself unsatisfied by my bi-monthly blog updates, I would like to point you in the direction of my girlfriend’s contributions to the fantastic The Etymologist blog. She’s posting funny and thoughtful articles about the etymology of various calendar-related word, a couple of times a week, and it’s all significantly more entertaining or interesting than anything you’ll find on here.

I have no idea where she finds the time. She’s even busier than I am.

Ruby ruby ruby ruby, and a #mothpunt update.

Blogging? Pointless.

Well, not entirely, but I’ve not had a great deal of time for it recently. I’ve been teaching myself how to program in Ruby, using the splendid Bastards Book Of Ruby. The goal here is to build webscrapers to allow me to hoover up a) sporting results and b) betting odds. This will enable me to a) write lots of interesting articles, and b) improve my already quite fearsome tipping.

Sorry. I have a) been doing a lot of  programming and b) got into the habit of breaking everything up into variables. This may be reflected in my c) writing style.

ANYWAY. As excellent as the Bastard’s Book of Ruby is, I’ve not been using it correctly. My hard drive is groaning under the weight of barely functional scripts that I’ve hastily written without any real thought; they’re so sketchy they’d make a real coder’s eyes bleed. Every time I learn about a new method I dash off and rewrite all my horrible scripts, and get nowhere closer to my goal. I hope to break this cycle of fail in the near future, and when I do, very exciting things will happen. Until then, there’s #mothpunts.

When I first posted about #mothpunt, things were going pretty well. Three monthson, and things have improved significantly. Consider the stats:


UNITS WAGERED = 87 units

PROFIT = 19.38 units



AVERAGE PUNT SIZE = 1.81 units

And if I could stop myself from tipping European cup football, my ROI would be closer to 90%. For reasons I don’t fully understand, I simply cannot pick winners in European competitions; I’ve only hit 3 of my 15 mothpunts in the Champions  and Europa Leagues, and those three winners were all at short odds. All told, I’m down 16 units on these markets, so I’m going to see if I can discipline myself to stop betting on them, at least until my totes amaze big-data-number-cruncher is up and running.

In the meantime, if you see me tweeting about Champions League #mothpunts, back the opposite result. And if you want to keep track of my progress, (assuming you already follow me on Twitter), then here’s the link to the barely-updated Google Doc.