On 26th October, 2022 an exclusive was published on Neil Wilby Media that set out the bare details of a dispute between two experienced Labour Party activists in a famous old East Lancashire mill town.
It was headlined ‘Councillor comes clean’ (read full article here) and followed reports that an un-named Labour councillor sitting on Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council had been ‘administratively suspended’ by his Party.
Cllr Graham Shuttleworth, who has represented the Chadderton South ward for almost twelve years was actually suspended over two months earlier. A matter that had been concealed from local and regional journalists, by Labour and the Council, for reasons that are yet to be disclosed.
In the October article, Cllr Shuttleworth, in order to end wild conspiracy theories about the suspension and the reasons behind it, gave brief details of the complaint made by Oldham Labour’s Organiser, Tony Short. The latter, (pictured with ginger beard back centre) declined to comment when approached.
The Labour Leader, Cllr Amanda Chadderton, didn’t acknowledge or reply to the email when asked for a statement. Just one more indicator of the notably poor judgement that has, regrettably, been a recurring feature of her eight month tenure at the head of both her own party and the council.
More details about the complaint, such as it is, have emerged: Cllr Shuttleworth, during a heated discussion with Tony Short shortly before the last local elections in May, 2022, called him a ‘twat’.
That is it; the full extent of the complaint says Cllr Shuttleworth: A single incident where one person describes another by using a derogatory term in the vernacular.
The Cambridge Dictionary defines its use, in that context, as ‘a stupid or unpleasant person’ (read their definition here). As in the common form, in Northern towns and cities, ‘you daft twat’.
The complaint, and its handling by the Labour Party, raises a number of public interest issues:
(i) Primarily, one has to ask how such a trivial, puerile incident ever became an issue between two middle aged politicians in the first place?
(ii) Why the matter was not resolved locally?
(iii) Why has the Oldham Labour Leader not intervened and persuaded the complainant to withdraw his grievance on the two obvious grounds of (a) common sense (b) incalculable and disproportionate damage caused to the Party’s standing by its continuation.
(iv) How could such an incident, conceivably and in a well run, well led organisation, result in the suspension of a sitting local councillor. ‘Administrative’ or otherwise?
(v) The comparison with an Oldham councillor presently on bail over a rape allegation, who is not suspended, is an obvious one.
(vi) Another obvious one is Cllr Robert Barnes, a Conservative Member on Oldham Council, was not suspended following appalling, disrespectful conduct in two successive council meetings in June and July, 2022.
(vii) Yet another is Cllr Max Woodvine whose arrogance and childish stupidity routinely brings both his own Conservative Party, and the wider Council, into disrepute (read more here) yet faces no sanction whatsoever, let alone suspension.
(viii) Less obvious is Failsworth Independent Party Leader, Cllr Brian Hobin, a close friend of Cllr Barnes and a fellow grooming gang ‘cover-up’ conspiracy theorist, sending out a defamatory and abusive email using the council’s IT system (read more here). He faced no sanction and no suspension.
(ix) Why did it take almost four months after the incident between Cllr Shuttleworth and Tony Short for the Labour Party to take action?
(x) Why, approaching six months later, ten months in all, is the matter unresolved and Cllr Shuttleworth still prevented from functioning fully as a ward representative and as a Member of a Party to which he has given sterling service over the years?
(xi) Why is Cllr Shuttleworth facing a grotesque and disproportionate sanction of being de-selected in Chadderton South if the complaint matter still remains unresolved by the time nominations close for the May 2023 elections? He would be a welcome ‘banker’ for Labour in what is likely to be another difficult campaign for them. Since 2021, they have seen their numbers in the civic chamber fall from 45 to 35. Without the cost of living and energy bills crisis – and the almost daily ‘sleaze’ revelations – swamping the Tories, informed political commentators had predicted that Labour would have fallen below 30 seats in Oldham, thus losing overall control of the council.
The Labour Party HQ press office and Amanda Chadderton have been offered right of reply.
When approached, neither Cllr Shuttleworth nor Tony Short had anything to add to their previous output on the matter beyond confirming that nothing further about the complaint or its resolution had been heard.
Page last updated Wednesday 1st February, 2023 at 0700hrs
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