‘Renegades’ face humiliation over quest for public inquiry

Hobin Tarbuck and Oldham tories

Four ‘renegade’ Oldham Metropolitan Borough councillors, Bethany Sharp (representing St James ward), Dave Arnott (Royton North), Lewis Quigg (Royton North) and Robert Barnes (Chadderton South) say they have written a joint letter to the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Priti Patel, urging her to consider instituting an independent public inquiry into child sexual exploitation (CSE) in Oldham.

All four, whom, notionally, represent the Conservative Party are well recognised as being in thrall to Raja Miah, a disgraced, unemployed conspiracy theorist from Mossley, Tameside whose wild allegations of ‘cartels, gangsters, mobsters and goons’ controlling Oldham Council, persuading elected Labour Party Members to overlook industrial scale grooming and rape of children in exchange for block votes at local elections, brought about a recently published CSE Assurance Review , commissioned and paid for by Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham.

Following a two and a half year investigation by two recognised experts in this specialist field, Malcolm Newsam CBE and Gary Ridgway, the four rebel councillors assert that the much criticised closing report highlighted only some of the ‘significant failings’ by Oldham Council and Greater Manchester Police, and that it did not go far enough or deep enough into the extent of these crimes in Oldham.

There is more than a grain of truth in that contention but, as is always the case with those associated with Raja ‘Shout First’ Miah, and his diminishing band of supporters whom self-style as ‘The Rabble’, those assertions lack specification or detailed evidence.

Eleven specific child abuse cases were identified in the Assurance Review and the Conservatives feel that this, in part, was due to its narrow scope, and, they say, has failed to assure ‘a great many members’ of the public. What those councillors fail to mention is that Oldham Council’s Children’s Services Department hand-picked those cases as the worst on record, using a complex scoring system aligned to risk and harm. No statistics or data is provided to assist with the assessment of what constitutes , in Rabble-speak, ‘a great many’.

Those same Conservative councillors insist, also without evidence, that ‘people of Oldham are angry and can sense that something is wrong and that they deserve answers’. As with their cult hero, Raja Miah, and his constant claim of speaking for ‘my town’, or ‘our town’, from a subscriber base of just over one hundred (some of whom, like Miah, don’t even live in Oldham), they ignore the fact that over 230,000 residents in the Borough have not spoken out against either the report or, more generally, child sexual abuse in Oldham.

They also omit to mention that the five Conservative councillors in Saddleworth, including their Group Leader, Cllr Graham Sheldon, have effectively disowned their Oldham counterparts over the Miah-inspired antics during the local election campaign earlier this year. Cllr Max Woodvine (Saddleworth South) has been particularly critical of their toxic behaviour which included distributing a ‘racist, misogynistic, divisive, hate-filled’ leaflet designed and printed by the Man From Mossley (read more here).

Cllr Arnott, who is a close ally of Gary Tarbuck, de facto leader of The Rabble, says:

“We have taken this initial step, contacting the Home Office, not only because we are determined to see a full and independent inquiry that gets to the bottom of what has been going on in Oldham, and as only recently admitted by the former Leader of the Council, still is, but also because we have been asked to do so, by many members of the public and opposition parties.

“I would acknowledge that members of the public, campaign groups, and opposition parties, notably the Failsworth Independent Party and in some cases, have suffered considerable and unfair ridicule, and worse, for their efforts.

“As Conservatives, we have been urged to contact our own Government for assistance and intervention.”

What Cllr Arnott fails to mention, in a highly tailored narrative so typical of The Rabble within whom he now plays a key role, is the Failsworth Independent Party (FIP) was recently identified by HopeNotHate as ‘a haven for racists and the far right’. Their Group Leader, Cllr Brian Hobin, a convicted fraudster and another central figure in The Rabble, is a close friend of his and the campaigning by the FIP for a public inquiry has, decidedly, not been ‘for years’, as he claims, but, since November, 2020 to be more specific. Until May 2021, FIP only had a single councillor. Cllr Hobin was first elected to the council in May, 2019 as an independent, with nothing whatsoever in his election material suggesting he was a CSE campaigner or knew anything at all about the topic. He joined FIP, on their formation, later that year. By which time the Party Chair, Kathleen Wilkinson, and her current husband, Mark Wilkinson (now a councillor) had become Raja Miah cultists and had begun regularly promoting his conspiracy theories on a widely-criticised community Facebook forum they run (read more here).

Cllr Sharp, who recently resigned her position as Deputy Leader, and has not graced the chamber with her presence at any of this municipal year’s three council meetings, says:

“Our letter to the Home Secretary is only the beginning of a process that will take time and coordination.

“We must now navigate with the Civil Service in Whitehall, and public inquiries are not granted readily, regardless of the party in power.

“The key to our success will be a strategic approach, working with other groups, and a dogged determination to keep going, however long it takes.

“The victims of grooming and rape in our town deserve nothing less.”

Cllr Quigg, a long term Raja Miah disciple and a councillor for just two months after many failed attempts to become elected, added:

“We have taken solace from the independent inquiry in Telford and Wrekin but must remember how hard campaigners there had to work to secure that inquiry.

“There is no doubt, that the most effective way to achieve a similar inquiry would be for the council to refer itself.

“They have absolutely no intention of considering that. Especially when one Labour Councillor noted that a public inquiry would be a waste of taxpayer’s money.

“Since when has it been morally right to put a price on uncovering the truth of crimes committed against the children of a town like Oldham?

“The Council Leader has abdicated her responsibly, shrugging off repeated calls for action and asked the opposition to do her job.”

That question is one upon which Cllr Quigg should ponder long and hard: His own Conservative Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, regards £60 million spent on inquiries into child sex abuse as “money spaffed up the wall”.

Cllr Barnes, whose recent appalling behaviour in the council chamber has led to formal complaints against him (read more here), concluded:

“In the council chamber, I made it clear that this is only the beginning of our campaign.

“We are confident that under the Inquiries Act 2005, Chapter 12, Point 1, we are fully justified in our call for an independent inquiry, and we will continue to do so, for however long it takes.”

Another serial election failure, and, also, much too close to Miah and Tarbuck for comfort, Cllr Barnes owes his seat on the council to the Miah-inspired smear campaign in which Labour opponents were defamed as paedophile protectors. Again, his concern about CSE appears to have enveloped him recently as it did not even appear on his 2021 local election leaflet.

None of the four Miah cultists, all of them only recently elected to the council in either 2021 or 2022, refer to that failed ‘CSE cover-up for Asian block votes’ narrative that was at the core of The Rabble’s campaigning for almost three years. The Assurance Review comprehensively dismissed that allegation and it stands unchallenged amidst the white noise of the remaining Miah hobby horses.

Whilst scrutiny of the mistakes made, and gaps left, in the Review by Newsam and Ridgway would be very welcome, not least by the author of this article, Neil Wilby, a public inquiry is a non-starter. That is not just the view of a well informed freelance journalist, adjacent to these issues for over two years, it was expressed publicly, and with considerable force, by a Conservative Home Office Minister, as recently as 30th June, 2022 during an Adjournment Debate on child sexual exploitation in Oldham brought by one of the town’s MPs, Jim McMcMahon.

No-one who watched, or listened, to that thirty minute debate (replay, with sub-titles, here) and particularly the response from Rachel Maclean MP, Minister for Safeguarding (as she was then), could be left in any doubt about her views on Malcolm Newsam and Gary Ridgway – and the independence of the report they produced. She comprehensively ruled out any further inquiry or investigation.

It is inconceivable that the four ‘renegade’ councillors did not know of that stance by a Minister in their own Party but, for them, it is all about maintaining what Council Leader, Cllr Amanda Chadderton, described earlier this week as a Rabble-pleasing ‘political Punch and Judy show’ (read more here).

Which, in plain terms, amounts to an abhorrent use of the pain and suffering of abused children as weapons to settle personal or political vendettas or for self- or Party advancement.

The next meeting of Oldham’s Full Council is on 7th September, 2022. It is likely that the ‘renegade’ Tories will have their answer from the Home Office by then. A number of The Rabble face bans from the public galleries following disgraceful, disorderly scenes at the last two meetings (read more here).

Page last updated Friday 21st July, 2022 at 1520hrs

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Picture credits: Oldham and Saddleworth Conservatives

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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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