Local Tories fail to publicly condemn ‘racist and misogynistic’ leaflet

Screenshot 2022-03-23 at 08.56.06

It is hard to comprehend that a double-sided A4 leaflet, distributed last weekend ahead of the forthcoming Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council elections can have spawned four articles in the five days since. 

The first 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, who faces re-election in the Chadderton South ward on May 5th. It also explored the close links between the activist, Raja Miah and prominent local Conservative Group members.

The second, ‘Fact check fallacy’, analysed the content of the leaflet distributed in Chadderton South, against the claim by Miah, that the leaflet had been checked for accuracy. The clear conclusion is that it hasn’t (read here).

The third article, ‘Commission says leaflet defect ‘a police matter’’, published yesterday (22nd March, 2022) essentially reflected the views of the Electoral Commission on the leaflet and its compliance with applicable law (read here). 

The controversy over the leaflet cum newsletter intensified yesterday with a post on the Oldham Conservative Group Facebook page. This is the full text:

“This afternoon the leader of Oldham Council emailed us about a leaflet being distributed around South Chadderton by a third party.

“Despite it clearly not being a Conservative Party leaflet, which can usually be identified by the imprint, logo or contact details of any candidate/s she decided to email us making a complaint about it.

“Given Cllr Shah uses her official title and email, we have suggested she address her concerns and email to the author of the leaflet directly. We have now come across a copy and it has an imprint and website which she can google in order to contact the author. Recusant 9 and Raja Miah.

“We feel this should be shared with the public as a matter of transparency. So you can make your own mind up. After all that is what you should be able to do in a democracy”.

This is the text of the email sent by Cllr Shah to the Conservative Group Leader, Cllr Graham Sheldon, its Chairman, Sajjad Hussain and Chadderton South election candidate, Robert Barnes:

 
“Dear Cllr Sheldon, Mr Barnes and Mr Hussain,
 
“I’m writing to you about a leaflet that has been distributed in my ward this weekend which has caused me significant distress.
 
“This leaflet is part of an ongoing campaign of harassment and hate perpetrated by Raja Miah, the head of the failed Collective Spirit free school in Chadderton.
 
“As you know Mr Miah is currently awaiting trial on charges of harassment and malicious communications.
 
“Mr Miah makes a number of allegations about me, including that I am helping to cover up child sexual exploitation and that I do so to garner ‘block votes’ from the Pakistani community. These allegations, among others equally untrue and malicious are, at their heart, racist.
 
“The leaflet contains seven references to my race and religion before reminding voters that the ward has a majority white community. I know the community of South Chadderton well and believe this will backfire because ultimately, they are good people and want their elected members to focus on improving the area, not political fallouts and personal attacks.
 
“However, the ultimate aim of the leaflet is to create division based on race and religion, using highly emotive issues to spread concern and conflict. Such is the national focus on the division taking place in Oldham this week Raja’s campaign has been referenced in Hope Not Hate’s ‘The State of Hate’ report for 2022.
 
“As you know Raja has declared his support for Robert Barnes’ campaign in South Chadderton and has aligned himself locally with other Conservative figures.
 
“He claims to be actively campaigning for Mr Barnes – including the distribution of this offensive leaflet and worryingly still there are common issues being used to create division, including the placement of asylum seekers in the ward by the Home Office.
 
“Nationally it has been uncovered that Raja Miah was the originator of the false and defamatory slur relating to the disgraced abuser Jimmy Saville, which was repeated by the Prime Minister and quickly rebutted by fact checking organisations, and fair minded conservatives in parliament and beyond.
 
“You will of course fight the election in a robust way, and I expect that, but this coordination with such a divisive campaign is not normal and can not be accepted as the cut and thrust of politics. None of this is acceptable political discourse.
 
“I am asking that the Oldham Conservative Group publicly distances itself from this defamatory and malicious campaigning immediately.
 
“Although we may disagree on many areas of policy I believed, as evidenced by our shared signing of our pledge for decency in politics, that we shared a view on the treatment of each other in political life. I consider this leaflet part of an ongoing bullying campaign against me that is both racist and misogynistic in nature and I hope that you would not support that in any way.
 
“I look forward to hearing from you.
 
Kind regards,
 
Cllr Arooj Shah
Leader of Oldham Council”
 

As the author of the Conservatives’ Facebook post correctly states, the public will make up their own mind about the leaflet, who is behind it and their motive. It is not the role or intention of the author of this article, Neil Wilby, to persuade them one way or the other. The facts presented in this, and the three earlier articles, will considerably aid the reader in developing their own thoughts on the matter. But what must be said is that the failure of the Tories to condemn the disgraceful, palpably untrue content of too much of the Recusant Nine publication, irrespective of whether they are associated with it, or not, and they appear to claim the latter, leaves them in a poor place. As does the absence of any contextual explanation of the close links between such as Political Chair, Lewis Quigg, and his Vice-Chair, Robert Barnes, with Raja Miah. 

The press office at Oldham Council and the Conservative Group media relations officer, Cllr Dave Arnott, have been approached regarding any formal reply made to Cllr Shah’s communication.

The Oldham Conservatives Facebook page is now swamped by Raja Miah and his supporters, whom self-style as ‘The Rabble’. All either critical of Cllr Shah or cheering on their hero. There appears to be no attempt at moderating the content, some of it highly defamatory, by the page administrator. It is difficult to comprehend that such moral turpitude is tolerated the ruling Party in the United Kingdom.

Shortly after this article was published news of a second leaflet emerged from the Recusant Nine camp. It is on a similar theme to the first and is an untrammelled attack on the integrity and good standing of Cllr Shah. It is the usual Raja Miah cocktail of stretched narrative and untruth and not re-published here due to its, very arguably, defamatory nature. 

Whether, or not, this was the final straw for Oldham Council, or not, a spokesperson has confirmed that they have now reported the matter to Greater Manchester Police.

Page last updated: Wednesday 23rd March, 2022 at 1305 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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