At the Oldham Council election count last Thursday (writes Neil Wilby), the first two of a significant number of councillors, candidates and party officials, from across the political spectrum, to visit me in the media centre were Cllr Graham Sheldon (Conservative Group leader) and Cllr Dave Arnott (media lead).
Amongst other topics, mostly off the record and, therefore, outside the scope of this article, and in a conversation conducted in good spirit, both councillors were at pains to stress that neither they nor the Oldham Tories were aligned with disgraced Tameside political activist, Raja Miah (front centre of picture).
Yet, here are four of their election candidates (out of a total of seventeen) happily lining up with the man now widely known on social media as ‘The Malicious Beggar’ in a photograph taken at a ‘celebration meal’ at the Blue Tiffin Indian restaurant in Royton, less than three days after the election results were announced.
They are Lewis Quigg
, the Oldham Tories’ Political Chair, seated to the left of Miah; Gary Tarbuck
, to Miah’s right. Convicted criminal, Kaiser Rehman
(read more here
), and Lynne Kovacs
are amongst the group at the back.
Quigg, a Nigel Farage fan, was elected to represent the Royton North ward following a grotesque smear campaign against his Labour Party opponent, Cllr Hannah Roberts
, and the Council Leader, Arooj Shah
, who also narrowly lost her Chadderton South seat (read more here
Ms Kovacs, Tarbuck (whose election agent was the same Cllr Arnott who denied the Miah links) and Rehman were all heavily defeated at the polls. The latter suffering almost complete humiliation in the Medlock Vale ward he had previously represented as a Labour councillor. between 2014 and 2018
The smear campaign, described in the local press as ‘dehumanising’ and ‘racist and misogynistic’, that saw Cllr Quigg (and Cllr Robert Barnes in Chadderton) succeed was almost entirely the work of Miah, presently on bail and facing a criminal trial later this year over harassing a female friend of Cllr Shah (read more here
). He denies any wrongdoing.
A series of leaflets were funded by a group of Miah supporters whom self-style as The Rabble (or Raja’s Rabble). They were referred to Greater Manchester Police several weeks ago by Oldham Council and it is understood that they are also subject of complaint to the Electoral Commission now that the clear links with the Conservative Party are beyond denial.
A substantial number of the offensive leaflets were delivered in Arooj Shah’s ward by their Party members, a fact that underscores that proposition. As does the fact that Gary Tarbuck is the de facto leader of Raja’s Rabble, a position of which Cllr Arnott cannot have been unaware when he chose to be his election agent. Lynne Kovacs and Rehman are also prominent Rabblers and Miah, on his own evidence, spent time during the run up to election door knocking with Kaiser.
Miah and Lewis Quigg had previously met for a meal at the Blue Tiffin on 24th April, 2022 – a fact confirmed by Cllr Arnott, who was first elected to represent the Royton North ward in 2021.
The first post-election Council meeting is scheduled for 25th May. It promises to be a very spicy affair. The new Leader, Cllr Amanda Chadderton believes both Cllr Shah and her predecessor, Sean Fielding, were subject to ‘appalling’ treatment during the past two election campaigns.
“Some of the tactics of the local Conservative party over the last few months have been disgusting – the literature put out has been beyond the pale – we need to be more robust, responding to that and calling it out for what it is,” she says.“If it’s racist and misogynistic, it’s racist and misogynistic – and we have to say that.”
The Oldham Conservatives have claimed elsewhere in the media that its campaigning was ‘robust’.
Cllr Arnott and Cllr Sheldon have both been offered right of reply.
Cllr Sheldon acknowledged the email promptly and referred the matter to Cllrs Arnott and Luke Lancaster for a decision as to whether a statement will be provided by the Oldham and Saddleworth Conservative Group. Over five days later, no statement has been forthcoming.
Labour MP, Jim McMahon, who has also been subjected to a lengthy and highly defamatory smear campaign by Raja Miah says:
“The rules on joint campaigning are clear. The Tories in Oldham should speak to the legal unit at Tory HQ before submitting their election expense returns”.
He added: “Not all local Tories condone it [the Miah collaboration] but they are now completely outnumbered by a toxic section of their movement”.
Page last updated: Saturday 14th May, 2022 at 1445 hours
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