It’s Thursday 5th May,2022 and local election day across the country, writes Neil Wilby.
No polls are likely to be more fiercely contested than in Oldham Metropolitan Borough, at the eastern extremity of the Greater Manchester Region, following last year’s highly controversial defeat of the former council leader, Sean Fielding (read more here).
This is the full list of candidates standing for election across the twenty wards in the Borough (read here).
Reports indicate that some local Conservative candidates have attempted to distance themselves from Westminster during campaigning in the light of the constant stream of scandals embroiling the Government, the highest profile of which is ‘Partygate’.
Oliver Dowden, the Tory Party chairman, said: “The elections today are about one thing: who do you want running your council?”. But the issue in Oldham is much more complex as the local Tories have now been effectively taken over by a notorious political activist from neighbouring Tameside, Raja Miah.
Using his disgraced, and frequently banned, Recusant Nine social media platforms, Miah propagates what is described elsewhere as ‘a misogynistic and racist’ hate campaign, mainly targeting one of the town’s two MPs, Jim McMahon, and the present Leader of the Council, Arooj Shah. The latter is defending her seat in the Chadderton South ward where she secured a 344 majority (17%) in 2018 against the same opponent she is facing today, the Conservatives’ perennial candidate, Robert Barnes.
A smear campaign against Cllr Shah, orchestrated by Raja Miah, has included the delivery of two leaflets to homes in the ward, delivered by Miah and at least two other Conservative candidates, Gary Tarbuck (Royton South) and Lynne Kovacs (Waterhead). Barnes has, inexplicably, claimed that the Miah laflet is nothing to do with the Conservative Party. Tarbuck and Ms Kovacs are both leading lights in a Mih support group whom self-style as ‘Raja’s Rabble’.
Another Miah cultist and perennial election loser, Lewis Quigg, is standing in Royton North. Quigg is also Political Chair of Oldham and Saddleworth Conservative Group. Robert Barnes is Vice Chair.
Oldham Council’s Comms Team, one of the most effective in the country, has urged the Borough’s voters to turn out for the following reasons:
𝟭. Hyper local representation – This is your opportunity to elect someone who knows about your neighbourhood and community, and can push for the changes YOU want and need.
𝟮. Be part of the democratic process – Over the past few years, we’ve seen a lot of change come from democracy. This is your opportunity to have a say in shaping your community.
𝟯. Be a part of the BIG decisions – Local councillors make decisions that impact the day-to-day lives of people in Oldham, in areas such as social care, local transport, planning, education, housing, regeneration and the environment. Now is your chance to elect someone to have a voice in the big decisions who represents the views you hold.
Polling stations are, so far, reporting a low turnout and activists on the doorstep, across most of the Borough, saying that it is hard to enthuse voters for any party.
Feedback suggests that the count in Chadderton South may be closer than expected, with the postal vote expected to play a significant part.
Counting of postal votes well under way. There is a verification process to complete first, by trained staff at the counting desks, then the votes are split into separate stacks for each candidate. This gives the first indication as to how the polling station vote is likely to have gone.
All votes are now verified. The count proper is now under way, beginning with Chadderton North. Early indications are that this might not be a good night for Labour. Seats may have been lost in both Failsworth wards and Royton South. A fair number of other polls may be agonisingly close, including Chadderton South, the seat of Council Leader, Arooj Shah, and Royton North.
Counting proper now also under way at the Chadderton Central and South, Crompton and Hollinwood, Royton South and St James tables.
Alexandra, Failsworth East, Saddleworth West and Lees, and Werneth counts now under way. Controversial Conservative candidate, Kaiser Rehman, has left the building after being prominent at the Medlock Vale counting table earlier. A spokesperson says: ‘It all got too much for him’. Rehman stood for election despite serving a suspended prison sentence after being found guilty last August of harassing a sitting Labour councillor.
A stream of Failsworth Independent representatives, including Party Chair, Kath Wilkinson, have visited the media centre to report that, as expected, they have won both seats in the Failsworth wards.
Failsworth West, Coldhurst, Saddleworth North and South counts now underway. Which makes 14 out of the 20 wards in process. Newcastle-upon-Tyne announced their first election result at 12.12pm. Just over three hours after the polls closed. An amazing effort by all concerned.
Agonisingly close at the Chadderton South table. Candidates have been called to the Chadderton South, Hollinwood and Crompton tables to hear the preliminary results. It looks as though Cllr Arooj Shah is the second Council Leader to LOSE her seat in twelve months.
I’m told that the margin of defeat for Cllr Shah is less than 100 votes and there is to be a full re-count. Still waiting for official confirmation of that. In less surprising news, the departure from the civic centre of NHPUK candidate, John Lawrence, is holding up the announcement of the result in Hollinwood ward. He is understood to have polled only a small number of votes.
Hollinwood ward result: Cllr Jean Stretton has very comfortably held her seat.
Jean Stretton: 1010
Karen Barton (Lib Dem): 151
Maqsood Hussain (Conservative): 313
John Lawrence (National Housing Party): 174
Rob Vance (Northern Heart): 67
Chadderton Central and Crompton preliminary results ready to be given to candidates.
Failsworth East and Chadderton North results ready to be given, provisionally, to the candidates.
Lucia Rea of the Failsworth Independent Party has won Failsworth East in a landslide. The margin was over 800 votes.
The Crompton ward was won easily by Cllr Dave Murphy by a similar margin.
Barbara Brownridge has retained her seat in Chadderton North ward for Labour.
It has now been announced formally by the Returning Officer, Harry Catherall, that Robert Barnes has displaced Cllr Shah in Chadderton South.
The Alexandra ward went very much as expected with Cllr Shaid Mushtaq re-elected by a very wide margin. Cllr Mushtaq is expected to be one of the frontrunners in the Oldham Labour leadership race.
Failsworth West ward has been won by Sandra Ball of the Failsworth Independent Party (FIP). She defeated Labour’s sitting councillor, Pete Davis, by around 400 votes.
1.40 am update
Conservative Party candidate, Tom Lord, has conceded St James ward, meaning that Leanne Munroe, in her maiden election, has retained the seat for Labour.
It looks as though Labour’s Hannah Roberts may have lost Royton North, but it has been now confirmed that Marie Bashforth has narrowly retained her seat for Labour in Royton South.
1.50 am update
Colin McLaren has held Chadderton Central for Labour.
In Royton North, Labour’s Hannah Roberts, a sitting councillor, has been defeated by Conservative’s Lewis Quigg.
St Mary’s was held by Labour’s Ali Umar Aqeel Salamat.
Saddleworth North has been comfortably retained by sitting Conservative councillor, Pam Byrne.
In Shaw ward, the LibDem’s Hazel Gloster has narrowly held on to her seat.
Werneth ward has been very comfortably held by Labour’s sitting councillor, Shoab Akhtar.
In Coldhurst, Montaz Ali Azad, now standing as an independent, has defeated Labour’s Cllr Abdul Malik.
That makes 13 out of 20 wards decided, so far in Oldham. Labour winning 6 seats, Conservative 3, LibDems 2 and FIP 2.
Cllr Riaz Ahmad has retained his Waterhead seat in the expected landslide.
Saddleworth South has been won by the Conservatives’ Chris McManus.
in Saddleworth West and Lees, Alicia Marland, in her maiden election, was successful as a LibDem candidate. This leaves the Proud of Oldham Saddleworth (POOS) Party without a successful candidate in either local or general elections, yet again.
That means that 19 out of the 20 wards are now decided. Only Medlock Vale remains to be determined. There are two seats to be fought over here which makes counting, with first and second preference votes, much more complex.
The two Labour candidates in Medlock Vale were both elected, Sajed Hussain and Umar Nasheen.
That takes the total candidates elected, broken down by party, to:
Labour 11 seats; Conservatives 4; LibDems 3; FIP 2 and Independent 1.
It leaves the political make-up of the Council looking like this:
Labour 35; Conservatives 9; LibDem 9; Failsworth Independent Party 5; Independents 2.
Labour’s overall majority has halved from 20 seats to 10. The two independents are both ex-Labour councillors.
Voter turnout in the wards varied wildly from a low of 22.3% in Hollinwood to a high of 48% in Coldhurst.
Overall turnout was 32.9% down by just over 4% from 2021.
Page last updated: Friday 6th May, 2022 at 0740 hours
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