Royton South was always going to be one of the key wards in the forthcoming Oldham Council elections where voters go to the polls on 4th May, 2023.
The Council Leader, Cllr Amanda Chadderton has held a seat there since 2012 and faced a year long smear attack, in an unvarnished attempt to unseat her, by a group of notorious Tameside-based conspiracy theorists known as The Rabble (or Raja’s Rabble) whose number, remarkably, includes three sitting Conservative councillors, Dave Arnott, Robert Barnes and Lewis Quigg, one from the Failsworth Independent Party (FIP), Cllr Mark Wilkinson and another prominent member and FIP Group Leader, Cllr Brian Hobin, who very recently left in controversial circumstances (read more here).
The Rabble is led by Raja Miah, a resident of Mossley and long term unemployed grifter – tricking his supporters out of money with persistent, mendacious lies – whose principal claim to fame is rather more serious than the current petty swindling of subscriptions and donations: Concealing the whereabouts of upwards of £3 million of public funds milked from two free schools that he founded and ran between 2013 and 2017.
Not one of the serving councillors has ever publicly questioned Miah over this hugely concerning scandal. By contrast, Mark Wilkinson, for certain, has actually funded the hate and divisive narrative that is the core output of the frequently banned Recusant Nine social media platforms that Miah runs.
Smear campaigns run by Mark Wilkinson, his wife Kathleen Wilkinson, the FIP founder, and Brian Hobin, grounded in the Miah trope of the Labour Party and others ‘covering up’ child sexual exploitation (CSE), saw off a previous Oldham Council Leader, Sean Fielding, who lost his seat narrowly in Failsworth West.
The trick was repeated last year with Bradford-born Miah, acting in concert with Dave Arnott, Robert Barnes and Lewis Quigg, orchestrating an ugly, highly personalised, ‘dehumanising’ attack on Arooj Shah, again using the same CSE cover-up trope both by way of leaflets and in doorstep conversations with voters (read more here). She lost her seat in Chadderton South to Barnes and, of course, the council leadership by just 92 votes. The Tory councillor, previously a perennial loser in local elections, turned out to be, very arguably, the worst elected Member in Oldham’s long and illustrious municipal history (read more here).
Buoyed by those grotesque, dishonest ‘successes’ the target has been planted this year on Cllr Chadderton’s back by Miah, Arnott and Quigg. The latter two deciding not to field Conservative Party candidates in Royton South to give three tame proxies, hiding under the banner ‘Royton Independents’, an entity unregistered as a political party with the Electoral Commission, a greater chance of being elected.
Using a variation of the CSE trope, in a leaflet already being delivered through voters’ letterboxes in the ward, they hope that the smear trick will be repeated again (read more here).
Two other long serving Labour councillors also face re-election in Royton South: Husband and wife team, Cllr Steven Bashforth and Cllr Marie Bashforth. They have been attacked in a different way by the ‘Royton Independents’ that has caused outrage locally and forced them both, through Steve, to issue this statement yesterday evening (18th April, 2023)
“I’m sorry but I feel compelled to post this, due to a post on a number of Royton based Facebook sites attacking myself and Marie saying we have abandoned the people of Royton by being “missing in action” as they say.
“For nearly 20 years I’ve been one of the most active and outspoken councillors in the town always having Royton and its people central in everything that I have done. Marie has always been quietly but busily working with residents without ever wanting to be in the limelight. We have been involved in too many thing to go into here, but we are not perfect and have not always been successful! But thats how things are and we always move on or try again.
“In late November I was rushed into hospital and had to undergo emergency surgery that saved my life. Since then I’ve been recovering from the major surgery and undergoing Chemotherapy, which has severely affected my ability both mentally and physically to be out on the streets and to attend council meetings at the civic centre.
“Since November, Marie and many of our good friends in Heyside and Royton have been very supportive and helped us deal with the situation. Whilst not able to be fully active I have continued to deal with residents who call or email me and continue to do so. I was even emailing residents from my hospital bed. I had no intention of posting my illness on Facebook, but circumstances alter cases!
“Marie has been out canvassing and delivering leaflets whilst at the same time supporting me since January. And I have had to watch whilst she and our colleagues have been out several times a week and I cant help.
“Win or lose in May, Marie and I have put our heart and soul into working for our town, and despite the abuse we can get on line, we love working for the people and living in Royton and have NEVER taken them for granted.
“I am doing my best to keep on top of things despite the difficulties and hope to soon start to recover. Marie has been out door knocking almost every day in Royton and Heyside but we will never get to speak to every single person.
“Anyone can check our meetings attendance records on the council website and will find they are excellent.
“We are seeing gutter politics of the lowest kind were people feel its ok to slander their opponents and say and promise anything without any consideration of the facts or possibilities.
“This is something we have never and will never indulge in.
“We also check the facts before going public on anything, especially if there is a personal element involved.
“We completely accept that we can never please everyone all the time and that many good people don’t support us politically, that’s fine and healthy. But personal attacks and flyers/leaflets and Facebook posts by the Royton Independents making accusations, without a shred of evidence, of being involved in the most evil things is not at all heathy for anyone.
“If anyone has any issues or questions for us, please don’t hesitate to email us on
Steven.Bashforth@oldham.gov.uk or Marie.Bashforth@oldham.gov.uk
They concluded: “It is understood that someone who has tried to post a reply to the Royton Independents on Royton Matters, as they kept blocking our post, has now been banned from the site”.
Cllr Chadderton has made this statement:
“It has obviously been a terrible and stressful time for Steven, Marie and their family and has obviously impacted on how much he has been seen out and about. None of us wanted to talk about this given what they are going through.
“We all love being councillors, but being a councillor does not come over and above everything else, people’s health is vastly more important.
“I’m appalled by the attacks on Steven and Marie, two unbelievably effective councillors in Royton for years and who have delivered so much.
“I hope the people that thought this was a good idea, reflect of the stress and upset this has caused”.
Cllr Ros Birch, one of the few Oldham councillors, along with Amanda Chadderton and Steve Bashforth (and Arooj Shah and Sean Fielding during their time as Leaders), to face down Raja Miah and his Rabble has this to say. Her support of the Bashforths is typical of both the dedicated, selfless person and elected representative that she is:
“I’m so sorry that you had to write this post. Take care of yourself and Marie too. I’ve been trying to help out in Royton South to support you all. Hope to see you back, fighting fit very soon”.
Labour councillor, and former Mayor, also prepared to front up to The Rabble, Cllr Jenny Harrison, paid this tribute:
“Steve and Marie have been friends of mine for many years and I know, along with Amanda Chadderton, how much they’ve done for Royton South and for Oldham.
The so called Independents should hang their heads in shame”.
Another Labour councillor and former Mayor, Cllr Javed Iqbal said:
“All the best to you both for the elections. Wishing you a speedy recovery, mate”.
Yet another past Mayor, retired councillor and local influencer, Shadab Qumer, also weighed in with these words:
“Get Well soon, Hope your both re-elected onto the council as I have worked with you both and can say your commitment to Royton has always been massive”.
Former Labour councillor colleague, Liz Jacques added:
“Steve your track record speaks for itself. You have always been an effective, dedicated, hardworking councillor and I’m sure your residents will recognise this on election day. Hope you have a speedy recovery”.
But the penultimate words go to Sarah Bashforth:
“My wonderful dad. Absolute inspiration. Love you so much and can’t begin to explain how proud I am of you and Marie through all of this. My Dad. My world. My Superhero”.
The final words go to Neil Wilby, as author’s prerogative:
“Sarah’s words resonate very strongly. Those who know me best will affirm that all I ever want to be remembered as is a good dad. The rest falls in behind.
“My time reporting in Oldham is almost over and, regrettably, the overarching memory will always be of The Rabble’s cranks, misfits, axe-grinders and political malcontents that have been a blight on the Borough since I first became involved in early 2020.
“As a journalist, legitimate protest is recognised as one of the purest forms of democracy in action. As is what happens at the ballot box on election days. But the toxicity Raja Miah and his Rabble bring to Oldham is absolutely beyond the pale. Persistent, mendacious lying backed up by mindless, vicious stalking and trolling of anyone daring to question the endless false narratives and violent fantasies.
“To the ‘Royton Independents’, Maggie Hurley and Jade Stephens, I say ‘be better’. To Darren Radcliffe I repeat the question already put to you via the Twitter social media platform: ‘Show me the evidence of the child abuse you claim is being covered up by Labour’.
“To those councillors (Arnott, Quigg and Wilkinson, in particular) who plot with and support ‘The Malicious Beggar’, you are living a lie and have no legitimate place in any civic chamber – or part of any recognised political party with the requisite ethical and professional standards. Fate will surely deliver its own tempest to you all, sooner rather than later, as it did with your close friend, Robert Barnes”.
Bradford-born Raja Miah, 49, of Stamford Street, Mossley (pictured below centre along Lewis Quigg on his right) is currently on both police and court conditional bail over malicious communication and harassment allegations respectively (read more here). He also is embroiled in a potentially life-changing defamation claim where he could face costs and damages approaching £200,000 if the matters in issue proceed to trial (read more here). In all cases, he denies wrongdoing.
It is understood that a third defamation claim against ‘The Beggar’ is in the course of preparation and will be served on him in the near future.
A similar claim brought against both him and his close friend and political ally, Khazir Rehman (better known as ‘Kaiser’), ended disastrously for the latter when, in February 2023 he was ordered by the High Court in London to pay £197,500 in costs and damages. Miah had compromised the claim against him at an earlier stage by withdrawing offending material, making a public apology and a payment to Oldham Food Bank in the claimant’s name. At the heart of the dispute were appalling and entirely false claims that a pillar of the local community was involved in child sex offending.
Miah and The Rabble continue to harass Cllr Steve Bashforth both by way of his YouTube channel and Facebook posts. One commentator on the Neil Wilby Media Facebook page noted:
“If you’re reading this comment Raja I want you to know that your broadcast this lunchtime is one of the lowest, most despicable and manipulative things you’ve ever transmitted.
You talk about facts yet you’ve just made outrageous assumptions about a person’s health, capabilities and prognosis just because you don’t like Amanda Chadderton.
You are a pathetic coward”.
The Royton Independents have, by contrast, issued this statement:
“The Facebook article titled: ‘Urgent appeal, Missing Councillors in Royton South”.
“The article was posted Monday, 17th April and contained direct quotes from constituents we met while campaigning. We were told that both Councillors had not been seen by them since 2022.
“Tuesday, 18th April, Councillor Steven Bashforth has to the best of our knowledge, released his first statement regarding his absence since his hospitalisation in 2022. His statement was made as a comment on the Facebook group – Heyside Watch.
“Before Councillor Bashforth’s comment/ statement today, we, The Royton Independents, our volunteers, and Royton South constituents were unaware of any illness!? Councillor Bashforth had not previously released any statement about his condition. As many others have stated, in these circumstances, how could we possibly know of his serious illness, given that he had recently registered himself as a Candidate for the May election.!
“Now that we know Councillor Bashforth’s serious illness, we will remove the post from Facebook.
“We would only ask of any prospective Candidate, including ourselves, that a public statement in these circumstances would be appropriate to prevent any confusion!
“We wish Steven well and a speedy recovery.
“We thank you for taking the time to read this statement and consider the matter closed.
*Please note comments have been switched off due to the foul language in previous Facebook comments, which goes against Facebook’s community standards policy”.
There is no explanation from the Royton Independents as to how, and why, obnoxious, defamatory comments on their posts are permitted whilst legitimate comments and questions are blocked or ignored. A well trodden Rabble path.
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 Thursday 19th April, 2023 at 0850hrs
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