What a Mare – new pub landlord faces boycott by locals

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What a difference a month or so makes.

On 4th March, 2023 a well known public house in the East Manchester suburb of Failsworth held a grand re-opening night after fears that the well established Mare and Foal would be lost for good following its abrupt closure two months earlier.

The Marston’s owned pub, with a prime location on Ashton Road West, now has a new licensee, Brian Hobin, well known in the area as an Oldham councillor representing the Failsworth East ward. Numerous local sources say that his fellow East councillor, wealthy businessman, Neil Hindle, has backed the venture.

Both represent the frequently disgraced hyper-local Failsworth Independent Party (FIP) (read more here) of which Cllr Hobin is both Chair and Group Leader of a Party with five councillors, three representing the East ward and two representing the West.

The Mare and Foal is part of Marston’s public house estate that includes thirty pubs across the North West. The Marston brewery, based in Burton-upon-Trent, was established in 1834 and sold to Carlsberg in 2020.

A week after the Failsworth pub’s re-opening Cllr Hobin told The Oldham Times reporterImogen Clyde-Smith:

“The future of the pub was hanging in the balance, and it was uncertain whether it would open again. There was a possibility it would permanently close.

“I decided to take it on as I didn’t want the pub falling into wrack and ruin and ending up being an eyesore. I didn’t want to lose another pub in Failsworth.

“I want to get the pub back to what it was as the heart of the community. Let’s put this place back on the map and get Failsworth booming again”.

Cllr Hobin, expanding on his future plans for the pub, also told The Times:

“I want it to be how an old-fashioned pub was, in the centre of the community as a sanctuary for people where they can come and meet others and have a good time.

Adding: “We are going to have entertainment every weekend, a quiz night in the week, and we’re going to try and encourage darts and pool. We also have a resident DJ and will be having live acts at the weekends.

He concluded: “We will also be showing live sport and are planning to hold ‘open mic’ evenings and karaoke nights.”

Entries on the pub’s Facebook page are, however, sparse. The last post being on 24th March, 2023. Visitors to the Mare and Foal website are taken to a ‘temporary interruption’ holding page.

Business Development Manager at Marston’s, Jeremy Muff, told The Oldham Times last month:

“The pub has gone through a difficult time in the last few months. Its future was looking bleak, but our investment has brought the place back to looking like a proper community pub.

He added: “Brian has taken it over, it’s now reopened and is better than it has been for years. It looks tremendous and is getting really good feedback.

“Brian has got vested interest, his heart and soul is in Failsworth. He’s very proud of the town and doesn’t want any pubs to close”.

Jeremy’s enthusiasm at rescuing the Mare and Foal from the knackers’ yard might have blinded him to some issues that might, in other circumstances, screamed caution.

Brian Hobin’s background does not bear a great deal of scrutiny: He has a spent conviction for fraud, essentially robbing elderly, vulnerable people that, in other circumstances, would not be reported. However, the public interest in doing so, in the light of other concerning matters, is compelling: For example, he was replaced as Chair of Governors at a local primary school after inspectors found at least one safeguarding failure and a lack of oversight; he breached the Localism Act by failing to declare a previous business interest, a taxi venture with Neil Hindle, on his Oldham Council Register of Interests; he admitted during the 2021 local election campaign that he was harvesting email addresses unlawfully and in breach of the Data Protection Act; his resort to derogatory or defamatory remarks about others is almost routine; his impatient, arrogant, attritional, disrespectful behaviour in the council chamber rarely rises above the objectionable and is, not infrequently, disgraceful.

Overlaid on that troubling catalogue is the close association of Brian Hobin, in particular, and the Failsworth Independent Party more generally, with the Greater Manchester Region’s most notorious, and dangerous, conspiracy theorist. A long-term unemployed 49 year old from Mossley, Tameside, Raja Miah, whose persistent, wild, so far evidence-free, claims of a historic child sexual exploitation (CSE) ‘cover-up’ of  by Labour Party politicians in Oldham and the wider Region, including its Mayor, aided by an entire police force, its safeguarding partners, senior paid council officers, local and regional journalists (including The Oldham Times), in return for Asian block votes at local and general elections.

An allegation that is, in reality, as ludicrous as it looks written on this page (read more here). Backed only by an unpleasant group of axe-grinders and political malcontents whom, appositely, self-style as The Rabble (or Raja’s Rabble) and whose ranks include an unhealthy proportion of the Borough’s criminals, thugs and perverts. For several years, Brian Hobin and his Party were totems around which the false narrative was propagated and he and his FIP colleagues have made at least five appearances on live transmissions from the disgraced, frequently-banned Recusant Nine social media platforms operated by Miah.

All these matters set out in the preceding paragraphs are ones that, either taken individually or in the round, should, on any independent view, have set alarm bells ringing at Marston’s, whatever the temptations in getting a failing pub like the Mare and Foal back up and running. It suggests that not even the most basic due diligence was carried out by the brewery giant. A point upon which they have been invited to provide clarification.

These significant public interest issues also appear to have escaped the attention of The Oldham Times reporter or were edited out before publication of what was, essentially, an undisguised puff piece for Cllr Hobin and Marston’s and, back in the day, would have been clearly identified as ‘an advertorial’.

But, setting all that aside, neither Mr Muff nor The Times, appear to have known that 4th March, 2023 was not only significant in terms of the pub’s re-opening, it was the same date that Neil Wilby Media first broke exclusive news that all was not well in Failsworth’s political sphere and there was a rift between Cllrs Hobin and Hindle on one side (two of the three East councillors) and FIP founders, Kathleen Wilkinson, the recently deposed Chair, her husband and tame proxy, Cllr Mark Wilkinson – and their close friend, Cllr Sandra Ball (the two West councillors).

On 17th March there was a further Neil Wilby Media post correctly forecasting that the Failsworth East councillors, the third is Cllr Lucia Rea, would not be supporting the Recusant Nine ‘Coalition of Independents’ in the forthcoming local elections. In which FIP were held up by Raja Miah, from the outset of that doomed alliance, as exemplars of the genre. Despite having previously described Cllr Hobin and the rest of his Party officials as ‘thick as pigshit’.

But that ‘pigshit’ really hit the fan with three exclusive articles within four days at the beginning of April, 2023 that laid the East v West war bare, in all its gory detail (read here, here and here).

None fared worse than Brian Hobin, whom at least half of Failsworth has now discovered, belatedly, it seems, that he is ‘sly, untrustworthy, a liar and cheat’. Also, comprehensively and very publicly dumped by Raja Miah following what was described as ‘a shocking betrayal’ during ‘peacekeeping negotiations’ (read more here).

Now it appears there will be a price to pay for Cllr Hobin and Marston’s as there are calls for the Mare and Foal pub to be boycotted by the West faction, which includes some prodigious drinkers amongst its number and a large number of Manchester City supporters who watch their team on TV in Failsworth pubs when not able to attend the Etihad Stadium.

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Failsworth Matters is a private Facebook group with over 8,000 members. It is much the most influential social media channel in the town. Rachel Brotherton, Kath Wilkinson’s elder daughter and, like her mother, a long-term Raja’s Rabbler, and ‘Lord of the Manor’, Chris Baddeley, are both very vocal and active, politically, both in that group and in the wider locality – and their sway in calling for a pub boycott, particularly amongst the West faction, cannot be underestimated.

It may be, of course, that the East faction rally around their Leader and pack out the Mare and Foal. But, whichever way it falls, Cllr Brian Hobin, his reputation once more in tatters, faces stern tests on three fronts: The ballot box on 4th May, 2023; at the till and credit card terminal over the next few months; and the white heat of Failsworth’s infamous on-line trolls as they turn their persistent, hideous attention on him.

He might also reflect on the last time he faced journalistic scrutiny: On that occasion over an alleged, dangerous criminal offence and a more mundane but, nevertheless, flagrant, prima facie breach of traffic regulations (read more here). Not conduct that one would expect from someone who has entered what Marston’s Mr Muff described as ‘a partnership’ with one of the leading public companies in the UK.

This exclusive is plainly a story with more to come: Follow Neil Wilby on Twitter (here) and Neil Wilby Media on Facebook (here) for updates.

Page last updated Sunday 16th April, 2023 at 1420hrs

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Picture credits: Marstons

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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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