It’s been a long haul. An investigation that started over a year ago may soon be coming to an end, writes Neil Wilby.
Allegations that a police force, a local council and a group of MP’s were engaged in a long running wide-scale cover up of grooming and child sex abuse, in an East Lancashire mill town, certainly grabbed attention at the time they were first made in 2019.
Not least by Greater Manchester Police who quietly launched Operation Hexagon in November, 2019 to investigate the claims. Its existence was not publicly revealed until one year later. No further update, or investigation outcome, has been published since then.
A more recent statement from Gold Commander, Nick Bailey, has been sought via the force press office.
The principal accuser is a man who repeatedly claims to speak for “my town” and “our town” but hasn’t lived in Oldham for 17 years. Raja Miah MBE (for the moment, at least) has also attracted an unsavoury group around him who constantly repeat the cover-up allegations and now, very belatedly and as a flag of convenience, position themselves as ‘anti-child grooming campaigners’. Despite the town having a known and very serious child sex abuse problem since at least 2006 (read more here).
Subscribers to his troubled Recusant Nine platform on Facebook, totalling 114 people, a fair number of whom have either criminal records, racist or far-right leanings, all appear to have an axe to grind against one or more of the Labour Party, local council, local MP’s, the police force and the Region’s Mayor. In an imperfect world, some with good reason, no doubt.
Many of them are also attached to a political party known colloquially as the POOS (Proud Of Oldham and Saddleworth). Miah, one of the administrators of the Party’s Facebook page, is said to be the driving force behind the party and selects its candidates for elections. The subscribers send him money every month. He is also feverishly supported by the successful, wealthy and popular local businessman, Paul Errock. Known better to his friends as ‘Boots‘.
The POOS, according to their website, are fielding eight candidates in the forthcoming local elections: Paul Goldring, Mark Birchall, Ronnie Bailey, Amoy Lindo (who stood as an Independent candidate in 2019 General Election), Marc Hince, Paul Shilton, Gary Tarbuck, Phil Sewell (UPDATE: Mr Sewell announced his departure from the POOS, and his Saddleworth South candidacy, shortly after this article was published. Messrs Bailey and Birchall also appear to be no longer standing for election as POOS candidates, as their profile pages on the website are blank). Four other candidates, whose names, apart from Debbie Barratt-Cole, are unknown, dropped out of the election campaign because of what supporters describe, without specification, as ‘hate and harassment’.
The local elections will, doubtless, be a watershed for the feverishly anti-Labour group. Messrs Birchall, Hince and Tarbuck all support Raja Miah with donations.
Oldham born Amoy is the only female, and the only minority ethnic candidate, out of the remaining POOS. She has previously, and unsuccessfully, stood for election in the same St James council ward she is contesting in May.
The main targets for a deeply unpleasant and sustained campaign of abuse and harassment by the Miah cohort are, unsurprisingly, three of the Labour Party’s most prominent figures in the area; Jim McMahon MP, Council Leader Sean Fielding (read more here), one of his two deputies Cllr Arooj Shah (read more here).
The genesis of that vendetta (Miah’s own description of his crusade) was the exposure by the former council leader, and now MP for Oldham West and Royton, of Miah’s lengthy catalogue of misdemeanours associated with two free schools that he previously ran in the area. Millions of pounds remain unaccounted for and, more seriously, there were grotesque safeguarding failures on his watch (read more here).
Miah denies any wrongdoing, although the evidence against him appears to be overwhelming. Instead, he paints himself as a victim of ‘a smear campaign’ that involves many prominent Labour politicians and journalists in the region. As he does regarding every other challenge to similarly ludicrous lies and groundless allegations that he routinely broadcasts (read more here).
This class of behaviour has resulted in action by the giant social media platform, Facebook, who have now blocked him from monetising his content. There are also a number of other complaints lodged against him with Facebook concerning alleged defamatory, mysogynistic and anti-semitic posts. Again, Miah robustly denies wrongdoing, although the facts and evidence appear to be against him.
His conduct has not moderated in any way since and, indeed, it might well be argued that it gets more outrageous to satisfy the needs of those supporters who ‘send money for a coffee’ every month. Taken at its face, a crude circumvention of the Facebook ban.
On Saturday 20th March, 2021, Facebook finally suspended Miah from posting on Recusant Nine. There had been a previous interruption and a warning. He is appealing the ban, he says.
The local police force also seem to be belatedly swinging into action over the abuse, which recently included an unwarranted and very public attack on the capabilities and integrity of Detective Inspector Kenny Blain, as Miah says he was contacted by Greater Manchester Police several times in the week leading up to the ban – and refused to answer the door to one of their officers on the same day the sanction was imposed by Facebook.
The source for this information is Raja himself.
Complaints are also understood to have been made to Google-owned YouTube about the alleged abusive and offensive Miah content on that hugely popular website. They do, anecdotally. have a lower tolerance threshold than Facebook when that class of content is in issue. He continues to beg for money on the video channel saying ‘it is needed for him to carry on’. In this context, the ‘Buy me a coffee’ operators, and their PayPal partners, are also said to have been contacted on the basis that that money handling service is allegedly facilitating defamatory, divisive and hateful content.
A well-placed police source says the force leadership has ordered a further review of complaints about his (and their) persistently mindless and harassing conduct. Exposure to a wide audience on Twitter about the apparent failure to act, for many months, on this shocking situation has also proved highly embarrassing for GMP .
The lengthy delay in finalising the investigation into alleged multi-million fraud at the free schools run by Raja Miah is not assisting the reputation of a police force already in ‘special measures’. It was passed to GMP by the Serious Fraud Office last year.
To top off the bad news, the Cabinet Office’s Forfeiture Committee that reconsiders the fitness of those who hold Honours are also undertaking a review (read more here). Given the nature and scale of the complaints against him, and the disgrace he has brought to the town of Oldham, the MBE awarded in 2004 may soon be a thing of the past.
As will the infamous Raja Miah strapline: “Do not fear them, do not fear any of them“
UPDATE: Several hours after this article was published, the Recusant Nine platform was restored by Facebook. For how long, no-one knows? Extraordinarily, Miah is now saying there wasn’t a ban but that during his period of absence he was ‘busy buying a new set of utensils’.
A further break in transmission from Friday 26th March, 2021 suggests there are more problems for Recusant Nine. Potentially, related to yet another unvarnished, unwarranted attack on the efficiency and integrity of DI Blain, two days earlier (read the post here).
Raja Miah, and his supporters, rely on access to the Facebook platform at weekends to promote his output on YouTube. Without that aid, his podcast this week attracted just 18 views (correct at the time of publication of this article).
The Recusant Nine platform was restored on Saturday 3rd April, 2021 and he returned with a bang, as it were. Miah’s latest accusations graphically portray a conspiracy to murder him, involving Jim McMahon, Cllr Fielding and the author of this piece, Neil Wilby. Facilitated by a ‘corrupt and ineffective’ Greater Manchester Police.
On that basis, it is not at all difficult to envisage that another social media ban will soon be in the offing with even more reputational damage inflicted on the Proud of Oldham and Saddleworth (POOS) party.
Page last updated: Monday 5th April, 2021 at 1155 hours
Photo Credits: Schools Week, Facebook.
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