Tory councillor to face Standards investigation

Barnes speaking

This week’s Oldham Council meeting was another extraordinarily chaotic affair, following which local Liberal Democrats have condemned the behaviour of Conservative councillor, Robert Barnes, who represents the Chadderton South ward.

Liberal Democrat councillor for Grotton, Springhead & Lees, Mark Kenyon, said:

“Local Conservative voters must be wondering what exactly it is they’ve done wrong to deserve a Tory councillor quite like Robert Barnes.

“I speak to voters every single day and Conservative people tend to be fierce advocates for the value of tradition and playing by the rules. They also tend to be keenly interested in Oldham Council getting things done rather than waffling on.”

He continues: “So, there must be a lot of head scratching going on after seeing Cllr Barnes’ performance on Wednesday. He repeatedly refused to follow the Rules, completely ignored the Mayor when she told him he’d run out of time, then shouted at the Mayor and council colleagues. You wouldn’t get away with that at work, so why does Barnes think you can in the Council chamber? He seemed to be more interested in auditioning to replace Boris [Johnson] as the Tory’s next bad boy rule breaker rather than getting anything done for the people of this Borough.”

Concluding, Cllr Kenyon says: “We must be able to do politics without resorting to this type of behaviour. I’ll be reporting him to Standards. I know I’m not the only one.”

Cllr Barnes, along with his Conservative colleagues Cllr Dave Arnott, Cllr Lewis Quigg and Cllr Bethany Sharp, have aligned themselves with a disgraced, unemployed conspiracy theorist from Mossley, Tameside, Raja Miah, and a group of supporters that self-style as The Rabble. Almost all of the disruption at the Council meetings on 27th June and 13th July, 2022, in some quite disgraceful scenes (including bottle throwing), is attributed to Miah – and past and present members of his Rabble.

Also very closely aligned to The Rabble, and the local Conservatives, is the ‘racist, far right’ Failsworth Independent Party (read more here) whose Group Leader, Cllr Brian Hobin, also disgraced himself, yet again, in the council chamber with a familiar, boorish display.

Cllr Sharp has yet to appear at a council meeting since March, 2022 having tendered apologies for absence at the last three. She resigned from her position as Deputy Leader of the local Conservatives and from the Council’s Shadow Cabinet earlier this week. It is understood that there is a deep rift between the Oldham-based and Saddleworth-based Tories as a result of alignment of the former to Raja Miah, The Rabble and the FIP.

Comment has been sought from Oldham Council, the ruling Oldham Labour Group and the Group Leader of the Oldham and Saddleworth Conservatives, Cllr Graham Sheldon.

UPDATE: Cllr Amanda Chadderton, Leader of Oldham Council pulls no punches in her response:

“The behaviour we’ve seen from Councillor Barnes is a blatant affront to democracy. He has demonstrated utter contempt for Oldham voters, who elected Members from all parties in this Chamber and have the right to expect our democratic process to be conducted fairly, respectfully and lawfully.

“I was appalled to see the contempt he showed for our Mayor, in shouting over her and refusing to stop speaking when politely informed he had gone over his time limit. This sort of behaviour would never be acceptable – but when we are discussing issues of such gravity, and when tensions are running high, as an elected Member he should be seeking to promote respectful debate; not escalate conflict.

“Councillor Barnes claims to be a defender of democracy but his actions say something very different. I would call on colleagues from all parties to reflect on what message this sort of yobbish behaviour sends to the people of Oldham – who need and deserve better from their elected Members”.

An anonymous source, a well respected commentator on the Oldham political scene added, in similar terms: “Councillor Barnes is a well recognised Raja Miah cultist and a close friend of The Rabble’s de facto leader, Gary Tarbuck. His very presence and those others of the same ilk, and their shocking behaviour in the Council chamber, seriously demeans the democratic process in the Borough”.

Tarbuck stood as a Conservative candidate in the recent local elections. He was also responsible for a significant part of the distribution of what was described as a racist, misogynistic, hate-filled leaflet attacking the now deposed Leader of Oldham Council, Arooj Shah. Cllr Barnes was the beneficiary of those tactics as he won her Chadderton South, a result almost entirely down to that widely criticised smear campaign.

Lifelong Oldhamer, Jean Cole, adds: “May I say, as an Oldham resident born and bred, I am deeply ashamed and extremely concerned of the behaviour of the Council Members and members of the public attending the council meeting. At this moment, I am in despair at how the people of Oldham can move forward”.

Page last updated Friday 15th July, 2022 at 1555hrs

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Picture credits: Oldham Council

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© Neil Wilby 2015-2022. 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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