Has Tory councillor been Twitter spoofed?

If a journalist can be certain of one thing, it is that there is never a dull moment covering the political scene in Oldham. Due in no small measure to the antics of the four Conservative Party councillors in the town, described by the most outspoken their five counterparts in neighbouring Saddleworth, amongst other things, as ‘not proper Tories’.

Cllr Max Woodvine is, it seems, on the wrong side of most arguments in which he chooses to engage but his perception on this occasion cannot be faulted. The hard-right, nationalist, grooming-gang obsessed Oldham Conservatives would, it is fair to say, be better off as United Kingdom Independent Party (UKIP) affiliates or, even, the far right Britain First.

A recent bid by the Oldham Group to break away from the formal Party links with Saddleworth unexpectedly failed (read more here). Nevertheless, the list of controversies attached to Cllr Dave Arnott (pictured above dressed as an elf), Cllr Robert Barnes, Cllr Lewis Quigg and Cllr Bethany Sharp is depressingly long: The most recent appears to be an attempt to set up a ‘spoof’ account in the name of Dave Arnott on the Twitter social media platform. It is a curiosity that, whoever is operating the account, chose these five accounts as their first picks:

Screenshot 2023-01-05 at 10.16.37

The ‘real’ Cllr Arnott, in his Party role as media lead, does not even acknowledge press requests from Neil Wilby Media let alone respond to perfectly fair, public interest enquiries. He is also believed to be behind the banning of Neil Wilby from viewing and commenting on the Oldham Conservatives Facebook page. That followed a single interaction where it was respectfully and courteously pointed out, with unassailable evidence, that the Tories were blatantly lying to their followers on that page over the resignation of Cllr Sahr Abid last April from her Medlock Vale ward (read more here). They claimed that she had left the Council because of ‘work commitments’, the reality was that, in an email to the Leader of the Council, amongst others, she articulated clearly that she could no longer countenance Conservative Party policies. In the wake of that Tory deception, Labour took that seat from them in the local elections the following month.

The choice of Arooj Shah, a leading Labour Party light regionally and nationally, although not at present serving as a councillor (or Leader) on Oldham Council would also appear to be a bizarre choice ahead of family, friends, professional or political associates.

It gives the appearance of this account being set up to stalk. A view enhanced by the account holder’s refusal to answer a simple question about his (or her) choice of Twitter avatar. It features Cllr Lewis Quigg, a person that the real Dave Arnott is said to dislike intensely (read the short thread here).

No other Oldham (or Saddleworth) Tories have a Twitter account in their own name, to the best of Neil Wilby’s belief, and it was in fact to Dave Arnott that a request for a statement was sent when the ‘Oldham Tories’ corporate account was suddenly and unexpectedly deleted from the platform (read more here). He didn’t reply. The consensus view is that they were constantly getting mugged or humiliated, or both, on Twitter over the Party’s repeated calamities and, in a recurring theme, decided to slope off rather than answer critics..

In many people’s book, top of the list of those catastrophes is the ill-concealed tie up between the Oldham Tories and the disgraced, frequently-banned Recusant Nine social media platforms (read here). Run by a notorious, unemployed Tameside-based conspiracy theorist, Raja Miah, a grotesque Recusant Nine smear campaign was orchestrated against Cllr Arooj Shah (as she was then) and other Labour Party candidates in last May’s local elections. Indeed, it is true to say that, without that ‘dehumanising’, ‘racist’, ‘misogynistic’ enterprise, that had little or nothing to do with local politics, Cllrs Quigg and Barnes after many years, collectively, of abjectly failed candidacy would not have been elected to Oldham Council (read more here).

It is a stain on democracy, and the Borough, that will take many years to erase. But voters, in possession of the true status of that conspiracy, and the roles of the plotters, will very likely remove Quigg and Barnes in this year’s elections. If, in fact, they are nominated by the Tories. A matter of considerable doubt in the case of Robert Barnes, which will be the subject of a separate, excoriating article to be published later this week.

Very likely, along with Cllr Arnott whose general shiftiness, duplicity, poor communication skills and unfortunate choice of associates are, one might fairly argue, entirely unsuited to being an elected representative. Particularly in a ward in which he neither lives nor works.

The undeniable links to a group of Raja Miah’s supporters whom, very appositely, self-style as ‘The Rabble’ (or ‘Raja’s Rabble’) also ill-serve Cllrs Arnott, Barnes and Quigg. The latter is sat, front centre, alongside the man now widely known as ‘The Malicious Beggar’ at a celebration to toast the success of Miah’s smear campaign. 

Rajas Rabble at Blue Tiffin

Cllr Sharp is much less obviously attached to Miah, or his henchmen and women, but enthusiastically adopts their core conspiracy theory. Her ‘bright young thing’ popularity in St James ward may see her survive, just, the expected Oldham Tory cull by the Borough’s voters, notwithstanding her lengthy absence from the civic chamber in the last municipal year, claiming ‘work commitments’, and huge resident concerns over energy bills and the more general cost of living crisis to which she and her Tory colleagues appear almost oblivious.

As part of the deal for Recusant Nine support of the Conservatives in Oldham, Raja Miah was, incredibly, allowed to put up two of his close associates as election candidates under a false blue flag: The de facto leader of The Rabble, Gary Tarbuck (pictured above alongside Miah and Cllr Quigg), and one of Bradford-born Miah’s most trusted lieutenants Lynne Kovacs (pictured back right). Both of them from the Saddleworth area but standing in the Royton South and Waterhead wards, respectively.

A Conservative Party HQ inquiry found that Ms Kovacs was not even a member of the Party when they looked into a complaint about her actively promoting the far-right, and now defunct Proud of Oldham and Saddleworth Party (POOS) whilst an election candidate for the Tories. In anywhere else but the famous old East Lancashire mill town, you couldn’t actually make up this class of malarkey.

At the same time as he was denying involvement with The Rabble and the reprehensible smear campaign that saw Barnes and Quigg falsely elected to the Council, Cllr Arnott was acting as election agent to Gary Tarbuck. Whose main claim to fame over the past few years, apart from stalking and trolling on behalf of Raja Miah and the rest of his Rabble, is a caper involving their close friend, people trafficker, tax dodger and fellow false-flagger, Montaz Ali Azad. Between them they concocted a story, with deep racist connotations, that, because of his former service as a low ranking soldier, he was in danger from senior Muslim politicians in the Oldham and Greater Manchester areas. The headline of the story on Neil Wilby Media told much of the story, ‘Absent of Evidence’, and the article can be read in full here. After that exposé was published the claims by Miah, Tarbuck and Montaz Ali were never repeated or referred to again, apart from the former distancing himself from allegations he himself had propagated and dumping responsibility on Tarbuck.

Other ties that bind Tarbuck, Cllrs Arnott, Quigg and Barnes is their joined at the hip attachment to the perennially disgraced Failsworth Independent Party (read more here), identified last year as a haven for racists and the far-right by the charity, Hope Not Hate, in their annual State of Hate report (read more here). Miah and the POOS were also picked out in that same report. The Oldham Conservatives and FIP share the unfortunate distinction of having at least two councillors each who owe their place in the civic chamber to Raja Miah orchestrated smear campaigns (read more here).

It is also a collective that supported the now wholly discredited ‘Justice for Ellie’ campaign in which lurid tales of grooming gangs, trafficking, exploitation, sex parties, slave auctions and beatings now stand totally discredited. The mainstay of the campaign, Eleanor Williams, now faces a lengthy jail sentence after being found guilty of perverting the course of justice at Preston Crown Court last week. The echoes of what happened in Barrow-in-Furness reverberating across to Oldham are simply too loud to ignore in the face of evidence-free conspiracy theories repeated constantly by a small but highly vocal group (read more here). 

The notorious, far-right Patriotic Alternative have been active in Barrow for several years, amidst disgraceful scenes on the streets of that town and on-line mayhem, and it is more than interesting that their recent venture into the Oldham Borough, with a leafletting campaign, started in Royton. Where Messrs Arnott and Quigg sit as councillors and Gary Tarbuck stood as an election candidate. 

Rabble and Tories at pub in Derker

In another post-election celebration last May, the Oldham Tories repaired to a pub in Derker, which is in the ward of Cllr Bethany Sharp. She is pictured between Cllrs Quigg (front left) and Arnott. Tarbuck is pictured with his hand on the shoulder of his close friend, Robert Barnes (far right).

Cllr Barnes has never been far from the news since his controversial election success and, as alluded to earlier in this piece, he features extensively in a forthcoming article.

Neil Wilby Media has also been alerted to the proposition that a leaflet is at the design stage, and planned for distribution in Royton in late April, that sets out the clear links between Cllrs Arnott and Quigg, Raja Miah, The Rabble and the far right. Together with their on-line praetorian guard that variously comprises of a deeply unpleasant collection of criminals, thugs, perverts, stalkers and trolls. 

Matters that voters in the two council wards are fully entitled to know before putting a cross on their ballot paper in May’s local elections. 

The four Oldham Conservative Party councillors have been offered right of reply. 

UPDATE: None of Cllrs Arnott, Barnes, Quigg or Sharp even acknowledged the email offering right of reply. But a consequent email exchange between the author of this article, Neil Wilby, and their Conservative Party colleague, Cllr Max Woodvine, has been covered in considerable detail, in a subsequent article, which can be read here. Max claims that he wasn’t responsible for the words, ‘They are not proper Tories’, but refuses to provide the evidence he claims to have that proves his case.

Page last updated Wednesday 11th January, 2023 at 1155hrs

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Picture credits: Facebook

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© Neil Wilby 2015-2023. 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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