‘Fact check’ fallacy

Fake news or fact

Less than two days ago, an article published on this website and headlined ‘Will hate campaign claim second local council Leader?’ (read in full here) reported on plans by a discredited political activist to escalate his smear campaign against the Leader of Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council, Cllr Arooj Shah.

In reality, the article was out of date as soon as the publish button was pressed. A journalist’s nightmare.

Early on Saturday 19th March, 2022, Raja Miah, an unemployed, discontented, failed charity and free schools operator from Mossley, Tameside had published on his frequently banned Facebook platform, Recusant Nine, pictures of what he described at that time as leaflets that featured the Council Leader, centrally. He signalled his intention to start delivering them into Cllr Shah’s ward in Chadderton South. A seat due to be contested in the forthcoming local elections in May, 2022.

In fact, the first of them was pushed through letterboxes in the ward a short time after that Facebook post.

A copy of the Miah publication, which presents itself as a newsletter rather than a leaflet, has now been obtained. It is, as fully expected, highly defamatory and malicious, and for that reason it is not reproduced within this article.

It is expected to be not only the subject of an appropriate civil claim and/or restraining action, but complaints, also, to both the police and the Electoral Commission. Its link to the May elections is clear by the strap-line ‘Will you vote for Arooj Shah?’ and reference to polling day on 5th May.

The most remarkable claim, in a field of plenty, is Bradford-born Miah asserting that his publication has been ‘fact-checked’. He does not say by whom, or provide references or authorities that would support the proposition that such a process has taken place.

There are also, inevitably, the racist undertones within the text of the publication that an unhealthy proportion of his small band of followers, whom self-style as The Rabble, crave.

The specific issues Miah seeks to explore are:

Declared associations with multiple Pakistani mobsters

Dodgy declarations and yo-yo ownership of an ice cream parlour

Recycled time and again by Miah and his supporters, these matters were dealt, with in considerable detail, in this article – ‘If only, Madam Mayor‘ – published in October, 2020 (read here).

Disregard for views of local residents, including welcoming asylum seekers to the area

Opposition to the asylum seekers and refugees from Afghanistan, currently housed in the nearby Victoria Hotel in Hollinwood is a recurring theme of The Rabble’s social media output, particularly the far right and racist element amongst them, and they rail consistently against the Home Office decision (not Oldham Council’s) to provide this accommodation as part of the Government’s obligations under the Refugee Convention. It is also a matter to which the Conservative Party candidate for Chadderton South, Robert Barnes, returns to time and again.

This is what Cllr Shah, very typically, said at the time that Home Office decision – and the electorate in her ward will, quite correctly, judge her on it:

“Oldham has a proud history of welcoming people of all nationalities, and we are ready and willing to play our part in helping these vulnerable people who have been through so much.

“That said, we do not have a choice in how many asylum seekers we accommodate here in Oldham. When planning how and where to accommodate asylum seekers, regional provider SERCO produces a list of hotels for the Home Office, which then decides which hotels to use. As a result, there are a number of hotels now being used across Greater Manchester and nationally, to house asylum seekers and people recently evacuated from Afghanistan.

“While this is a temporary emergency solution, and we do not know exactly when these people will arrive or how long they will be here with us, what I am certain of is that Oldhamers will want to help, and make them as welcome as possible.

“We are currently working through a scheme for how people can donate items to help these new arrivals – many of whom will have entered the UK, into this terrible weather, with nothing at all – and will provide further information as soon as we have it.

“People can also help by donating to the Greater Manchester Migrant Destitution Fund online.”

Disgraceful role in her Council’s cover-up of child abuse and the grooming and gang rape of working class white girls across the town.

This is a subject to which Raja Miah (and The Rabble) returns time and again on social media, accompanied by deeply offensive, highly personalised and very often defamatory commentary. It is, he believes, the ace in the hole. His core allegation is that Labour councillors covered up large scale child sexual exploitation in return for Asian block votes. An allegation about which he has yet to provide a single scrap of evidence, despite claiming repeatedly that he has ‘a dossier of evidence’. It is also one without a safe foundation as this article, published in November 2020 and headlined Get The White Vote Angry lays out in considerable and forensic detail (read here). But, setting that aside, Cllr Arooj Shah took over leadership of Oldham Council in May 2021. Since then she has made publication of the report from the Oldham Strand of the Mayor of Greater Manchester’s Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) Review a priority – and consistently, and forcefully, made that clear. That it has been repeatedly delayed is not down to her, her leadership or her Council. Or, even the Mayor. It is, according to the Assurance Review Terms of Reference, the judgement call of the two appointed investigators, Malcolm Newsam MBE and Gary Ridgeway. Widely regarded as the best in the country in their field. They want the report to be the product of a thorough investigation with the voices of all victims heard and accounted for.

No court in the land, civil or criminal, would uphold any view that Arooj Shah had any culpability, whatsoever, for either covering up child sex abuse or taking any other action that would even remotely support such a grotesque proposition. For this reason, and setting aside the myriad others, Raja Miah should be arrested by the police and, separately, face a defamation claim brought by Oldham Council on behalf of its Leader.

There are also three paragraphs on the leaflet cum newsletter, where Miah vents his spleen against those who have dared to stand up and call out his persistent, mendacious lies and grotesque business failings: Jim McMahon MP, ex-Council Leader, Sean Fielding and the author of this article, Neil Wilby (referred to obliquely as ‘malicious blogger’).

McMahon was the first to challenge Miah’s catastrophic failings as a free schools operator and this analysis published in November, 2020 under the House of Commons crest remains the definitive work on the subject (read here). It makes very uncomfortable reading for the Man From Mossley and, very largely, explains the relentless vendetta run against  the MP by Miah.

Ex-Cllr Fielding, now a PR executive and Account Director with BECG in Manchester, regularly faced the ‘bare faced lies’ taunt during his last election campaign and it is regurgitated again for the umpteenth time since. The plain truth is that three words were taken almost completely out from a speech that correctly labelled the twisted narrative of Miah and Recusant Nine. Pointed to this article elsewhere on this website, headlined ‘Bare faced lies‘ (read here), Raja and his Rabble have absolutely no answer.

There has never been one single scrap of evidence that either Jim McMahon and Sean Fielding have been, or would ever be, adjacent to covering up child sexual exploitation.

Freedom of expression and right to life

Raja Miah is, of course, entitled to say what he chooses on his Facebook (and YouTube) platforms, provided it is lawful. That is enshrined in Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights relating to freedom of expression. The balancing test, frequently undertaken by courts at all levels in England and Wales is a subject’s Article 8 rights. In essence, a protection for an individual to go about their daily business without unlawful interference from another. On any independent view, this leaflet/newsletter crosses the line.

There is also the equally important issue of unwarranted interference in a democratic process, such as local council elections, and the press offices of both the Electoral Commission and Greater Manchester Police have been approached for a statement regarding the legitimacy of Raja Miah’s latest enterprise. What is clear, by an inspection of the register on the Commission website, is that Recusant Nine is neither a bona fide political party nor a registered non-party campaigner. That would appear to support the view that Miah’s campaign is grounded in hate and division, rather than political ideology.

The press office at Oldham Council has been asked if formal complaints have been raised with either the Electoral Commission or GMP by Cllr Shah in respect of the Raja Miah/Recusant Nine leaflet/newsletter.

Page last updated: Monday 21st March, 2022 at 1725 hours

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Picture credit: Oldham Council

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© 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 Media, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Published by Neil Wilby

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

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