‘They are not proper Tories’


In an article published on Neil Wilby Media on Monday 9th January, 2023 (read here), a reference was made to Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council‘s youngest sitting councillor, 21 years old Max Woodvine. It attributed a five word quote to him concerning four of his fellow Conservative Party councillors, Dave Arnott, Robert Barnes, Lewis Quigg and Bethany Sharp:

They are not proper Tories’.

An unremarkable sentiment that stands unchallenged by any of those four – and one with which many across the Borough, and beyond, agree.

On that same evening, the author of that (and this) article, Neil Wilby, received a pleasant enough request to desist from such attribution, accompanied by a stated support, of sorts, for freedom of the press: ‘You can write what you like’.

Max Woodvine, more crucially in that email, also said that the quote actually originated from John Hudson OBE, a former Oldham Mayor and long-term Leader of the Oldham and Saddleworth Conservatives. Max is a Hudson protegé and, in fact, took over his Saddleworth South seat on the Council, following the latter’s retirement. They still serve together on Saddleworth Parish Council.

A response was provided in these terms: “Good morning Max. Thank you for the below email.

“There are two sources, both well respected and normally reliable, whom attribute the ‘not proper Tories’ quote to you.

“However, your version that it was John Hudson is interesting and I will, of course, incorporate it in an update to the article later this morning.

“For three of ‘The Oldham Four’ it will be moot whether they are ‘proper Tories’, or otherwise: It is doubtful, in my respectful submission, that they will still be councillors after the ‘all-outs’ in May”.

Max came back with an a categoric assurance that they were not his words and, moreover, he could prove it in a document he held. Apparently, some text sent to an on-line newspaper in Manchester.

He was requested to send it but responded, bizarrely, that he needed re-assurance that the text allegedly provided to ‘The Mill’ would ‘not be used inappropriately’.

The reply was in rather more forthright terms than the previous two emails:

“Max. I am an accredited journalist with the ethical and professional constraints that accompany such status.

“Also trusted by the vast majority of councillors in Oldham civic chamber and very many other influencers in the Greater Manchester region.

“It is entirely a matter for you whether you send it [the alleged text to The Mill], but please forgive my bluntness, hereafter:

“As things stand, I have two respected sources saying Max Woodvine has used those words and you, well known across the Borough and beyond for your erratic behaviour, both inside and out of that same chamber, saying not. You say that evidence is available, but then attach a puerile, vacuous caveat before providing it.

“The ball is firmly in your court and, if you do not send the proof you say you have, I maintain sufficient confidence in my own sources to leave things as they are in the article. If you, subsequently, wish to challenge its accuracy, via the courts or my professional bodies, then please feel free to do so”.

Since then, there has been silence from the perpetually noisy councillor, the alleged text in his possession has not been provided and, apart from a footnote directing attention to this article, the reference to Max Woodvine and ‘not proper Tories’ stands unchanged in the piece published two days ago.

Ethically and professionally, those actions will withstand scrutiny. Court action is a non-starter as he has not claimed that the article damages his reputation. Given his antecedents in the twenty months since he was elected that would present a very high hurdle, in any event.

In brief, Max received a censure from the Mayor within one of his first Full Council meetings for abusive behaviour. A sanction, say others elected Members whom sit near ‘the obnoxious twerp’ in the civic chamber, that could well be repeated at almost every meeting.

More widely, he has hit the headlines locally, regionally and nationally over the ludicrous claim that, in just five months working for the Royal British Legion on a £23,000 per annum salary and with ‘minimal savings’, he had saved enough for the deposit on a £150,000 house. He was dismissed from his job at the Legion for reasons that are, as yet, undisclosed and his councillor allowances totalling around £13,000 are his only visible income.

During that particular furore he told a local newspaper that whilst he has been applying for jobs, Max said ‘none of them seem to be working out,’ after he was told he ‘did not meet the criteria’ to be a postman. He also said that a £3,000 allowance he receives is “good because we don’t do anything – there’s nothing to do as shadow cabinet members.”

Another foot in mouth scandal involved Max “not understanding” the council’s budget or the local authority’s decision-making process after claiming to have saved the local authority more than £40,000.

As the Conservative Shadow Cabinet Member for Finance and Low carbon, he claimed in October, 2022 to have saved the council £42,000 by cutting Special Responsibility Allowances (SRAs) in a press release.

The note also stated: “The SRAs are jobs for the boys and need reconsideration”.

“Labour uses them to keep their backbenches sweet, to subvert democracy and to avoid scrutiny.

“The people expect more of elected members which is why we in the Conservative group attempt to restore trust at any opportunity.

“This is not our money, and we must remember that.”

Council Leader, Cllr Amanda Chadderton, was quick to put Max back in his box:

“Cllr Woodvine’s press release is inaccurate in many respects and shows that he does not understand the council’s decision-making process, the council’s budget, or the way councillor’s allowances and special responsibility allowances are set.

“The £42,000 savings in the budget for councillor allowances were recommended by the Independent Remuneration Panel and agreed by Full Council – a process owing nothing to Cllr Woodvine’s actions, unless you count his claim in The Oldham Times that ‘we don’t do anything’ to earn a Shadow Cabinet special responsibility allowance.”

Later in the same month, still desperate for attention, Max made yet more headlines following an ill thought out challenge to Oldham Council, whom he accused of being ‘woke’ by way of sharing a post on Black History Month.

The Facebook post described how American slavery once helped to produce cotton which was exported to Oldham’s mills, despite the abolition of slavery in Britain in 1833.

Max commented on the Council’s social media offering, saying: “Is this a joke? There is no historical accuracy in this post.”

Oldham Council asserted in reply that its post was accurate – and linked to information on the Revealing Histories project.

Cllr Woodvine replied that he could not access the link and said, further, that a book he owns “is nothing like this in its telling of Oldham’s cotton spinning story”.

He dug his own hole deeper by saying he would do his own research and adding:

“I think this post should be removed as it is misleading. It is insinuating that slavery powered our mills, which it did not.

“Oldham’s major boom was around the time of the abolition of the practice in this country.

“Perhaps mill owners did purchase cotton from plantations in America but that does not include Oldham in the abhorrent practice.

“More woke nonsense from OMBC.”

The Council went on to say: “The purpose of Black History Month is to talk about Black history and the contributions our black communities make to Oldham.

“We can’t rewrite history, but please do take this up with the historians from the eight museums and galleries and if they report an error then we will, of course, edit our post to reflect that.”

So, taking just those examples of his waywardness into account, there can be ample justification for a journalist not to take the word of Cllr Max Joseph Woodvine at face value and ask for evidence to support any assertions that he makes.

Moreover, when one adds into the matrix the fact that none of Cllrs Arnott, Barnes, Quigg or Sharp, took up their right of reply to Monday’s article or challenged the ‘They’re not proper Tories’ quote then it is right for it to stand as written.

Max Woodvine is offered the usual courtesy of right to reply – and it is not too late, of course, for him to provide the evidence he claims to have.

Page last updated Wednesday 11th December, 2022 at 1050hrs

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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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