Impropriety mystery after hyper-locals de-select two sitting councillors.

A split in a controversial hyper-local political party in Greater Manchester, that was first exposed exclusively by Neil Wilby Media in early March, 2023, has now turned into an ugly gash.

The Failsworth Independent Party has courted, and indeed regularly sought out, controversy since it was founded in September, 2019. Two months later they adopted their first councillor, Brian Hobin, a local taxi driver at the time, who had been successful as an independent candidate in the Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council election in the Failsworth East ward earlier in the same year.

By the time the votes had been counted in the corresponding election in May, 2022 that number had grown to five: Cllr Sandra Ball (Failsworth West) and Cllr Lucia Rea (East) joined Cllr Neil Hindle (East) and Cllr Mark Wilkinson (West), husband and tame proxy of his Chairwoman wife, Kathleen Wilkinson, who were elected in 2021.

In the interim period the Party became best known for heavily promoting the conspiracy theories of unemployed, Tameside-based Raja Miah. Essentially, that the local Labour Party, the police, safeguarding partners, senior paid council officers and the press were all part of ‘a ‘cover up” of child sexual exploitation (CSE) in return for Asian block votes at general and local elections’. A ludicrous, completely evidence-free line that Kath Wilkinson pursues to this day, along with an unhealthy obsession with a persistent, mendacious liar, currently on both police and court bail and facing a life-changing defamation claim in the High Court (read more here).

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In early March, 2023, in the run up to the last Oldham Full Council meeting of the municipal year there were reports emerging of a row between Susan Hindle, wife of Neil, on the one hand and the moderators of the Failsworth Matters Facebook page, Kath Wilkinson and a local travel agent, Joanne Potts, on the other. It is (or was) the FIP power base with around 8,000 members in the closed group.

It is not known how the row started and there are the full spectrum of salacious rumours doing the rounds. The public interest is not served by repeating any of them here, except to note that the tension between East (Cllrs Hobin and Rea) and West (Cllrs Ball and Wilkinson) was palpable in the civic chamber on 15th March, 2023.

To the extent that, less than halfway into the meeting, Sandra Ball and Mark Wilkinson got up and left, disrespecting the Mayor and the rest of the councillors in the civic chamber. A not unusual scenario for the latter, in any event. Cllr Hindle was absent but one Failsworth source said that he had stayed away deliberately, at Cllr Hobin’s request, so that his empty, designated seat would provide a natural barrier between the two mutually disaffected factions.

But whatever the argument, and how it started, it has resulted in FIP de-selecting Cllrs Ball and Wilkinson for the 2023 elections, reducing the Party’s number of sitting councillors to the three from Failsworth East.

Earlier today (5th April, 2023), Mark Wilkinson made this statement on Facebook. There is no explanation as to the delay in making it since the last meeting of the FIP Membership when it would have been appropriate to do so:

“It is with deep regret and huge disappointment, I have to report today, that Sandra Ball and myself have been de-selected from The Failsworth Independent Party, following a members vote.

“This statement was not something I expected to write any time soon, but the vote was quite clear. 68 members voted for their favoured 6 candidates, from the 9 hoping to be elected.

“We finished 7th and 8th respectively.

“I myself, have been an elected Councillor for two years and Sandra for the past twelve months. We have taken great pride in assisting residents, not only in Failsworth West, but in the area as a whole. Working alongside Sandra, has been an absolute pleasure and I believe we make a good and effective team, achieving much, in a very short time.

“So, it’s back to the drawing board for us! We intend to campaign as stand alone “Independent candidates for Failsworth West”, in the forthcoming May election, together with a new Independent candidate – Alan Brady.

“We are down, but definitely not out. We hope those who have shown faith in us, will continue to do so going forward. It’s been a privilege acting on your behalf, and we have enjoyed getting to know so many of our residents. Your support has been humbling.

“We hope to see you around and about in the following 4 weeks, as we begin our campaign for re-election”

A short time later, Joanne Potts re-posted Cllr Wilkinson’s statement, adding this enigmatic contribution:

Joanne Potts commenting on Wilkinson de-selection

Taken at its face, it appears that Mrs Potts is accusing those now running the Failsworth Independent Party – Brian Hobin has displaced Kath Wilkinson as Chair according to the Electoral Commission – of unconstitutional and undemocratic conduct.  Both she and Mark Wilkinson have been approached for further comment.

Earlier reports suggested that FIP may be putting up three candidates in Failsworth West against their former colleagues but that, in the event, has turned out to be just the one.

A newcomer to local politics, Jane Cashinella-Vaughan, a retired police officer, may well face the wrath of the Wilkinsons’ on-line praetorian guard that has smeared their political opponents relentlessly for over three years. An unhealthy concoction of criminals, thugs, racists and perverts that inhabit the darker corners of the Borough’s internet.

The Failsworth electorate now has a chance of vastly reducing the grotesque impact of these horrendous on-line stalkers and trolls (read more here) by voting out Cllrs Ball and Wilkinson on 4th May.

For his part, Raja Miah has posted on his notorious, frequently-banned Recusant Nine Facebook page that ‘as for the situation in Failsworth, I will be issuing a statement on Sunday sharing what I am aware of. Like many of you, I feel betrayed’.

It is not so very long ago that Bradford-born Miah was describing Kath Wilkinson and the FIP councillors as ‘thick as pig shit’, so what the ‘betrayal’ amounts to is anyone’s guess, at present.

Kath Wilkinson thick as pigshit

Following publication of this article on Wednesday evening (5th April, 2023), a post was made on the FIP Official Facebook page:

“Following recent developments, Failsworth Independent Party will release a statement in the next 48hrs to explain our position and keep everyone updated”.

There were some interesting comments posted beneath it by locals:

Damian Green: “Stick to shouting at kids in the park fake copper”.

Claire Ingle: “Your behaviour as an independent party has been a disgrace. The way you carried out a most un-ethical vote to ensure your best two councillors were de-selected was a disgrace. Wise up you!”

Dave Kell: “As a party, you seriously need to reconsider the decisions made. Although I have no idea why the party has made the decisions (nor do I want to) it doesn’t seem right that you are kicking two elected councillors to the kerb. As we all know, it’s the all outs, and it’s Oldham’s greatest chance to kick Oldham Labour out of power. Failsworth Independents having a civil war could lead to you splitting the vote between yourselves and giving Labour a chance of gaining Failsworth seats. Please, work out your differences before you gift Labour victory”.

Michael Jones: “Already imploded, I knew the party was not fit for Failsworth. A Tory party in disguise”.
Zack Stuart: “The political trick, pose as “independents” to disguise their true colours”.
Debbie Rayner: “Kath wanted all drinks to be on the house for her and Mark at Brian’s new pub.”
Richard Finney: “Funny how one by one they got voted out of Failsworth, soon to be none?”
Raja Miah: “Buy me a coffee”.
Paul Wadsworth: “Hope they (sic) will be no lies and you tell the truth Brian”.

Indeed, Mr Wadsworth. But, as the founder and operator of the disgraced, allegedly racist ‘vigilante group’, Failsworth Street Patrol, you are not exactly renowned for sticking to facts or occupying the high moral ground (read more here).

But, more crucially and of significant public interest, what has taken so long, Cllr Hobin?  The exclusive Neil Wilby Media exposé of the FIP split is now over a month old.

Page last updated Thursday 6th April, 2023 at 2030hrs

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Published by Neil Wilby

Former Johnston Press area managing director. Justice campaigner. Freelance investigative journalist.

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