Local Tories press self-destruct button again

Oldham and Saddleworth Tories at Hollinwood count

Following another shameful, witless, heartless performance by their Party in Oldham Council’s Budget Meeting earlier this week (1st March, 2023) the author of this article, Neil Wilby, asked his assistant to check the Oldham Conservatives Facebook page for any useful background for another Neil Wilby Media article that is at the planning stage.

The Facebook search revealed, if somewhat belatedly, yet another ‘disappearing act’ by the beleaguered local Tories. Prominent amongst the search results was commentary posted on 2nd February, 2023 by Damon Ashworth, a local activist who has run social media entities under the ‘Chronic Oldham’ banner since 2013:

“I see the Oldham Conservatives Facebook page has temporarily disappeared. Maybe it’s because of all the misleading financial posts they keep making about government grants to Oldham and Labour spending in Oldham. I’m the Oldham Labour Party’s biggest critic on spending and priorities but the information I publish is factual and checkable [not strictly true as can be seen from the above weblink] the manipulated half truths put out by the Oldham Conservatives mirrors the nonsense about the economy put out by number 10. I will be very surprised if we don’t see a collapse in local and national Conservative support and an inevitable early general election this year and change of government”.

Prescient observations given what took place at Oldham Civic Centre on Wednesday, the antics of the local Tories elsewhere across the Borough, and the desperate look to the choice of their candidates in the forthcoming local elections (read more here).

Mirroring last year when they allowed two members of of group that self-style as The Rabble (or Raja’s Rabble) to stand under their blue Party flag. Including their de facto leader and noted conspiracy theorist, Gary Tarbuck (read more here). Tarbuck is pictured below front right.

The disappearance of the Oldham Conservatives page, run by controversial councillor, Lewis Quigg, may well be connected to its commentariat being increasingly populated by The Rabble and the unpleasant, often defamatory, on-line trolling for which they are best known. Cllr Quigg (pictured below front left) was an integral part of The Rabble until recently and the reason for his split from the cult is not yet known.

Rabble at Blue Tiffin

The page was not an easy platform to monitor as Neil Wilby was banned from it after making a single, neutral, unobjectionable comment, in March, 2022, pointing out that the public statement that the Oldham and Saddleworth Conservative Union Chair, Sajjad Hussain, had made, following the shock resignation of Cllr Sahr Abid in that same month, contained at least one significant untruth (read more here).

It was also the month that the Oldham Tories deleted their Twitter page in similarly mysterious circumstances (read more here). It was a low follower entity that lacked sufficient cogent output to gather support.

That action had been preceded by Lewis Quigg deleting his own Twitter account, again for reasons that are entirely unclear. His own Facebook account remains active.

Two other local Tories to delete their Twitter accounts are Cllrs Luke Lancaster and Max Woodvine. The latter’s near permanent stupidity, and seemingly boundless ability to offend, making such a move almost inevitable (read more here). It is not known if the remaining Conservative Members on Oldham Council, Cllrs Barnes, Pam Byrne, Chris McManus and Bethany Sharp, have ever operated Twitter accounts.

One to reverse the trend is Cllr Dave Arnott, whose attempts to remain relevant include dressing up as an elf (see below pic): He launched a Twitter account in January, 2023 and, objectively viewed, it is fair to say it has not, so far, been a success. He simply does not have the native intellect or political nous to build a credible following. His first follower was ‘Oldham Eye’, a notoriously bigoted, far-right entity obsessed with as yet to be uncovered grooming gangs in the town and firebomb conspiracy theories (read more here). Both enthusiastically adopted in the council chamber by ‘Private Pike’ (a nod from his fellow councillors to his former service in the Armed Forces). The Eye has been the commanding figure around which a battalion of ageing, decrepit fellow Rabblers have joined Pike’s Twitter Army with their trademark on-line stalking and trolling.

Cllr Arnott’s Facebook account appears moribund, as does that of Cllr Barnes. Cllr Sharp has changed the name of hers to ‘St James Conservatives’.


In an era where local elections are won and lost on social media, a remark particularly true in Oldham where grotesque on-line smear campaigns, organised and executed by The Rabble (read more here), have seen off its two previous Council Leaders, the Borough’s Conservative councillors and candidates face a torrid time in the next three months as their own presence shrinks or disappears – and the doorstep conversations in the wards are dominated by the cost of living crisis and brutally inflated energy bills.

A realistic possibility is that the Conservatives could lose all four councillors in the Oldham wards and at least one in the traditionally ‘True Blue’ Saddleworth wards. Cllr Barnes, a rookie who has proved to be a huge disappointment as an elected representative, is understood to have been dropped by his own Party in Chadderton South (read here). Cllrs Arnott and Quigg (both defending small majorities in Royton North) and Cllr Sharp in St James, as her own Rabble links unravel, look increasingly vulnerable.

The only bright spot in an otherwise bleak Tory landscape is a potential win for popular local businessman and former Parliamentary candidate, Kamran Ghafoor, who narrowly failed to take the Hollinwood by-election, late last year, when up against a very substantial Labour majority.

Page last updated: Friday 3rd March, 2022 at 0905 hours

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© Neil Wilby 2015-2021. 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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