It is widely accepted that a North Manchester suburb has a deep rooted problem with racism, stretching back for decades. With a population listed as 95% white that might not be the biggest surprise in the region or the wider country.
Failsworth has also, very arguably, the most disgraced independent political party in the country who act as a magnet for both the anti-Labour caucus and the far right element, both rooted in the town for many years. In many cases, they are one and the same. A number of attempts, by their hierarchy, to silence the author of this article, Neil Wilby, have failed miserably (read more here
The infamous town also, unsurprisingly, has its own ‘vigilante’ group which regularly attracts adverse police and media attention. One of its leading lights, and most vocal supporters on the Failsworth Street Patrol
(FSP) Facebook page, is Stephen Walsh
, a convicted criminal and one of a group of racists credited with starting the riots in Oldham in 2001. He has a subsequent conviction for football related violence and was recently pictured toting a machine gun whose provenance, and licensing, has yet to be determined (see here
He is currently the subject of a number of other police reports relating to the permanent stream of malicious abuse propagated from social media accounts, both in his own name and a number of other aliases, mostly with racist connotations.
His output is targeted at critics of the FSP, the Failsworth Independent Party (FIP) and a disgraced political activist from Mossley, Tameside, Raja Miah currently on court bail and awaiting trial over harassment and malicious communication charges. Miah and FIP have, in the past, been very closely linked.
Walsh also has an unhealthy obsession with ‘nonces’. An oddity, since one of his friends and political allies is known to be one. The child sex abuser cannot be named, nor the circumstances of the offending, due to the risk of jigsaw identification of the victim.
The founder of the FSP, ex-soldier Paul Wadsworth, is frequently given to making unsubstantiated allegations regarding a group of Afghan refugees and/or asylum seekers currently housed in the Victoria Hotel, Hollinwood. On any view, they have racist connotations and when asked to provide substantiation to FSP claims of this genré, the enquirer, Zahra Al-Rashid, is blocked and comments removed from their Facebook page.
On the other side of the coin, the Street Patrol does have support of a section of the residents in Failsworth, particularly amongst the elderly, who do feel safer with a presence of this nature, rather than nothing at all.
Greater Manchester Police have responded in recent weeks by stepping up their own patrols in Oldham’s Q Division, and improving response times to 999 calls, in hot spots in the area. Most notably, at the town’s MetroLink station. The initiative is codenamed Operation Valiant. A rival street patrol service has also become active in Failsworth very recently, Murphy McGuinness Street Patrol.
For a number of weeks, and particularly since the publication of this article elsewhere on Neil Wilby Media
(read in full here
), Paul Wadsworth has been strongly mooted as a candidate set to stand for Failsworth Independent Party in the forthcoming local elections. Not least as the self-praise for which he is well known locally had reached crescendo levels.
But a series of hard-hitting exposés on the town’s fastest growing, and most inclusive, diverse, community forum, Failsworth Moan, has left both the reputation of FSP and its founder in tatters. Although, to be fair, the emerging fact that he is economical with the truth, there are question marks over a ‘missing’ £3,000 plus of FIP crowdfunding, he is heavily supported by racists and associates with criminals would appear, to many neutrals, to strengthen his FIP candidacy, rather than diminish it.
However, a well placed source says that the Wadsworth candidacy, real or otherwise, was causing a rift within the FIP hierarchy: Party Chair, Kathleen Wilkinson, an admitted drunk and liar, regards him as a perfect fit. Her husband, Cllr Mark Wilkinson, has no say in such matters and simply does as he is told. He has been known to use the strap-line, ‘Do Not Fear Them, Fear My Wife’ on social media. Which, one has to say, is both accurate and fair.
But another convicted criminal, Cllr Brian Hobin, the Party’s Group Leader on Oldham Council, was set heavily against the FSP chief. The other FIP councillor, Neil Hindle, selected last year on the basis of being Cllr Hobin’s drinking buddy (and there being no-one else) is another who has no say in FIP policy, apart from ‘Your round, Brian’. The Houghton Arms, where Steve Walsh holds court, is one of their watering holes.
Cllr Hobin has, previously, backed FSP wholeheartedly, and very publicly, in two eulogies on his official FIP Facebook page. It is unclear, at present, what has brought about the change of heart and when that happened. The Party Chair, in typical fashion, said recently, ‘We (FIP) have never endorsed FSP’. A claim readily undone by reference to Kath Wilkinson’s Facebook outpourings. Notably one made in January, 2021 on the FSP page.
The outfall from these internal wranglings is that Paul Wadsworth was forced to make an announcement yesterday in the following terms. It has the look and feel of a Kath Wilkinson ‘close the stable door after the horse has bolted’ draft:
“We want to make an announcement so it does not leave doubt in anyones mind.
“Paul Wadsworth is NOT standing for council and neither is any other person from FSP.
“Further more we also wish to inform everyone that FSP will NOT be supporting any political party.
“We hope that this clears up any rumours and thank you for your continued support”.
Well, yes, it does, up to a point. Especially if the torrent of anti-Labour (and anti-Failsworth Moan) abuse is removed from FSP’s partner forum, Failsworth Really Matters.
The membership of the Failsworth Independents is due to select their candidates for the May elections on Saturday 26th February, 2022. Mark Wilkinson, speaking, as always, at the behest of Kath, said recently on Facebook, ‘That is how democracy works’.
Having survived a rigorous FIP selection process, himself, in May, 2020, it has to be said that he does speak from experience.
What is unexplained is the different versions of the total number of FIP members who pay their annual £15 subscription fee. Mark says ‘around 70’, Cllr Hobin says ‘over 100’. Accounts filed with the Electoral Commission suggest the number is between 75 and 80.
The announcement of the 2022 FIP election candidates next weekend is now awaited with heightened interest. One possibility is that no-one will stand for FIP in 2022 as it is only a one year tenure for successful candidates. The 2023 renewal is an ‘all-out’ poll due to Ward changes brought in by the Boundary Commission. Another is that one or both of Failsworth Litterbuster, Sandra Ball, and award-winning bee-keeper, Catherine Charnock, will take the plunge for FIP. A third name mooted is Joanne Potts, regarded locally as a ‘Kath Wilkinson clone’.
An unofficial, but senior, Labour Party spokesperson expressed disappointment that Paul Wadsworth was not going to stand. They announced their candidates around a month ago. Sitting councillor in the Failworth West ward, Pete Davis
, will stand again. Marzia Babakarkhail
will stand in the East ward as a new candidate for the Party (read more here
Neither the Conservative Party nor the Liberal Democrats have announced their candidates. They are widely considered as makeweights in these two local elections.
Local public nuisance, Warren Bates, committed an expenses declaration offence under the Representation of the People Act, 1983 and is not expected to stand in May, 2022 as a result. There is also an unresolved issue concerning monies promised to charity during a previous election campaign. Asked for comment, the 84 year old said: “You know nothing”.
Page last updated at 0825hrs on Thursday 24th February, 2022.
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Photo credit: Failsworth Street Patrol/Facebook
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