Leader sues for peace after latest bizarre attack on Council

In an exclusive broken elsewhere on this website yesterday, news of the Failsworth Independent Party‘s latest attack on its own Council was revealed in full (read here).

It resulted, once again, in humiliation for their Council Group Leader, Cllr Brian Hobin, who exposed his own lack of knowledge of the hierarchy and leadership of the paid officer ranks of Oldham MBC; a troubling lack of awareness of police procedure and protocol; and a complete misunderstanding of the locus of a Home Secretary in terms of operational matters.

Along with his allegation that the second largest police force in England was ‘acting at the behest of a Labour administration’ in Oldham, his communication was almost too bizarre for words. As more than one commentator has said, “a cheap publicity stunt”.

The call for an emergency meeting of the Full Council, based on little or nothing that would survive informed scrutiny, was rejected by a Council spokesperson in these familiar, bland, corporate terms: “In response to Cllr. Brian Hobin’s letter to Interim Chief Executive Helen Lockwood, she will be responding directly to inform Cllr. Hobin of the correct process for calling an extraordinary council meeting under the Council Procedure Rules.“

A leaked copy of that email has appeared on a Facebook community page, ‘Failsworth Moans’.

Oldham’s new Council Leader, Cllr Arooj Shah, took a rather more cultured and forensic approach in a comprehensive response to each of the points that Cllr Hobin had raised in his email to the interim chief executive.

An independent observer may well take the view that she was exceptionally generous, with both her time, expertise and diplomacy, in seeking to keep the peace amongst the competing political groups on the Council. Not limited to the Failsworth Independents, of course.

This is the text of her email in full:

“Dear Councillor Hobin and the Failsworth Independent Party,

“I know that you have received a formal response from Helen Lockwood as Deputy Chief Executive but I wanted to write to you directly to answer the issues you raised in your recent ‘open letter’.

“As you know, one of my first actions as Leader was to meet all of the Group Leaders in Oldham to reassure you that I wanted to seek an environment where we could work more closely together for the good of Oldham and its residents and move away from a focus on personal or political attacks. I was clear at that meeting that I would answer any questions or concerns you or other members of your party had directly and openly and that commitment stands.  On that basis:

  • Your letter states that the Council is without Leadership. As Deputy Chief Executive Helen Lockwood is leading the organisation while we seek to agree arrangements for a new Chief Executive for the Council. This continues the arrangements we have had in place for the last 12 months whilst Dr Wilkins completed her secondment supporting the Government’s pandemic response.
  • I note your reference to a letter from the local Conservative Group. I am unaware on what basis they seek Government intervention but am willing to discuss any concerns they have should they wish to raise them with me or the organisation directly.
  • You raise concerns about the establishment of local street patrols in areas of the borough. These have been proposed by local residents in response to concerns about levels of crime. I have been very clear, not least in response to public questions about this issue at the last meeting of Full Council, that neither I nor the Council support local patrols of this nature and that we do not believe them to be the best solution to local concerns about levels of crime. I am very aware that my statement to Council is being deliberately misrepresented online and in your letter.  I was also clear that Greater Manchester Police have the responsibility for liaising with these groups and that the Council had passed on details of this proposed group to them so that they could offer their advice and guidance. As such your statement that the group is operating with ‘tacit permission of the current administration ‘ is wrong and misleading. I could not have been clearer on the position of the council. I agree that if groups are to operate there should be a clear framework which would include transparent governance, financial probity, full legal compliance and safeguarding. Given we share concerns about the appropriateness of local street patrols who appear to be replicating the scheme currently operating in the Failsworth District, it does beg the question as to why you neglected to raise these concerns previously. In reality, you have previously publicly declared your support for this model. I attach a couple of screenshots of your public support.
  • You reference the recent arson attack on my car – an incident that has been personally very frightening and disturbing. I would ask that you let the police continue with their ongoing investigation into the incident. I share your concerns about the safety and security of elected officials in light of this attack and have raised this with both Greater Manchester Police and senior officers within the Council.
  • You make claims in your letter that GMP is acting at the behest of the Labour administration. As you well know neither the Council nor any political party controls or governs the actions of the Police Force. However, if you truly believe that GMP is acting in a ‘questionable’ manner it is imperative that you raise this with the Chief Constable, the Police and Crime Commissioner or with the Independent Office for Police Conduct.

“I recognise that much of what you raise in your letter is from online sources who regularly share misinformation about a range of issues. I need to explain to you the personal impact that your support for online misinformation such as this has.

“I am well aware that there are a vocal minority of people who seek to not only criticise me and my actions but use social media channels to abuse and harass me on a personal level. Each time these lies are spread online or elsewhere I am subject to a significant amount of online abuse and threats. Recent posts on the issues you have raised in your letter have resulted in people openly stating they wished I had been in my car when it was set alight and threatening to strangle me, both of these threats have been reported to GMP. These are just two examples of what is a daily onslaught of personal abuse about my appearance, my background and my religion. I have included a number of examples of this abuse for your information.

“Please know that I consider these attacks both racist and misogynistic in nature. In sharing them and seeking to use Full Council to broadcast these lies even further I also believe that you are furthering that abuse and harassment.

“As well as driving personal attacks aimed at myself and others, the lies spread by people online are intended to stoke distrust, division and hatred in our communities. We have a collective duty as Councillors to bring people together and focus on what connects all Oldham people – the desire to improve our town.

“When we met following the local elections, we spoke about this shared commitment to local people and the town. I remain fully focused on the task at hand – driving the recovery of the borough from the pandemic and improving the lives of local people. I hope that you do, too.

Kind regards,

Cllr Arooj Shah

Leader of Oldham Council”

Requests for reply, comment or statement

Both Cllr Hobin and the Failsworth Independent Party have been approached for a statement following receipt of Cllr Shah’s communication. There has been no response to either. This is entirely in keeping with how they have reacted previously to challenges against the Party’s oppressive, harmful conduct. A preferred method, it seems, is to mobilise social media trolls against their critics.

Brian Hobin’s Facebook page has not been updated since he posted a copy of the communication sent to the OMBC chief executive on Wednesday evening (11th August). It was shared seven times, those re-distributing the post included fellow FIP councillor, Mark Wilkinson.

Ex-council leader, Sean Fielding, has ventured these views about the Party to whom he lost his Failsworth West seat in May, 2021:

‘The Failsworth Independents are fond of posting ‘hard hitting’ correspondence but then never post the replies they receive. That’s because they are often dismissive and embarrassing for them.

“They did the same when I had to get a solicitor to respond to threats they made against me during the election. That response was never published (read more here).”

The offensive threats against Cllr Shah

It is of very considerable concern that those posts containing threats, or implied violence, against Cllr Shah have not been removed from the Facebook platform, even after they were reported to Greater Manchester Police. It is of equal concern that they have not been denounced by the Failsworth Independents.

Mark Isles, who is from the Delph area of Oldham and claims Cllr Shah should be strangled, is a member of the other disgraced independent political party in the Borough, the inaptly named Proud of Oldham and Saddleworth (widely known as the POOS). Now notorious in Oldham, and beyond, for the group of on-line social media trolls that are attached to them (read more here).

One of the founders, and the main driving force behind the POOS, is, of course, the thoroughly discredited and deeply troubled ‘political activist’, Raja Miah. Currently on police bail over suspicions of racially aggravated public order and malicious communications offences. He was arrested in a dawn raid on his Mossley home last month and is due to surrender bail on Friday 20th August, 2021 (read more here). A number of other complaints have been made against him since his arrest.

As the national and regional press belatedly reported after the May elections, the Recusant Nine brand of narcissism and local politics are poor bedfellows. His cult-style self-aggrandisement, and nauseating saviour complex (or victim complex, depending upon the hour of the day or the day of the week), are geared very much to an audience of limited intellect or vulnerable to manipulation and, of course, the regular extraction of funds from them:

The more outrageous the posts, the more cash pours into the Miah coffers. Particularly effective are when Raja claims his life is in danger, or there is yet another imaginary plot to murder him. ‘Poor man, I’ve bought you ten coffees to make you feel better’.

One such foul deed involved an alleged conspiracy between the author of this piece, an accredited journalist Neil Wilby, the then council leader, Sean Fielding, and the MP for Oldham West and Royton, Jim McMahon.

Indeed, it is hard to imagine anyone in the history of Greater Manchester, even the most hardened organised criminal, who has allegedly faced down such peril, or made money quite so easily. Whilst, all the time, putting the well being of others constantly under threat. His latest prime, and repeated, target being Cllr Arooj Shah.

UPDATED:

Screenshot 2021-08-17 at 20.04.56

Brian Hobin belatedly posted his response to the letter sent to him by Cllr Shah on his Facebook page: It appeared at around 8pm on Tuesday, 17th August, 2021.

“Last week I wrote an open letter to Council in good faith. It is clear that it may have appeared misleading. That was not my intention.

“It was not a personal attack on the Council Leader or her leadership, rather a call for more openness and transparency at Council and better communication cascading out to Councillors and residents.

“Yesterday I met with Council Leader Arooj Shah, we addressed many issues which will resolve in their appropriate time.
We have committed to working together to the benefit of our community and not any campaign which creates hate and tries to cause division in our town.”

That statement does not sit at all well with the persistent harassment and defamation of any person who dares to criticise either Cllr Hobin or his Party, by the right wing militia amongst their supporters. Or, by the utterly discredited Raja Miah, a close ally of Hobin, who almost immediately posted derogatory and defamatory remarks about both Cllr Shah and Neil Wilby beneath the Hobin Facebook post, which, of course, then acts as a catalyst for the rest of their collective, mostly brain-dead Rabble to pile in.

The Council Leader has made a notably good start to her term as Leader, but this was not one of her better judgement calls. Those around her, and advising her professionally at the Civic Centre, need to take a long, hard look at themselves and think through consequences of their actions before taking them.

Page last updated at 2025hrs on Tuesday 17th August, 2021.

Corrections: Please let me know if there is a mistake in this article. I will endeavour to correct it as soon as possible.

Right of reply: If you are mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let me have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory it will be added to the article.

Photo credit:

© Neil Wilby 2015-2021. Unauthorised use, or reproduction, of the material contained in this article, without permission from the author, is strictly prohibited. Extracts from, and links to, the article (or blog) may be used, provided that credit is given to Neil Wilby, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Published by Neil Wilby

Former Johnston Press area managing director. Justice campaigner. Freelance investigative journalist.

4 thoughts on “Leader sues for peace after latest bizarre attack on Council

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