‘Bare faced lies’

These are words uttered by Leader, Sean Fielding, during a tumultuous full meeting of Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council on 7th November, 2019, writes Neil Wilby.

“Over the last few months there have been daily postings on social media about planning and historic safeguarding incidents.

“These allegations have been combined with a series of personal online attacks on councillors, residents, MPs and council officers, and often come from people with a clear political agenda.

“We will always take action where appropriate including the recently announced review into historic safeguarding. 

“Too often, however, the allegations and claims made online are bare faced lies designed purely to stoke fears and score political points.”

The session ended in chaos and the police were called to quell protestors in the public gallery. They were unedifying scenes. The person at the centre of them was Debbie Barratt-Cole, whose behaviour then, and subsequently, resulted in court proceedings and later visits to her home by police. She has, some might say, thankfully, now left the area to go and live in the south-west of the country ‘to start a new life’.

Although not named, the person to whom Cllr Fielding mainly alluded as the teller of ‘bare faced lies’ was a man from a neighbouring Borough: Raja MIAH, a long-term resident of the upmarket commuter village of Mossley.

Miah’s only recent connection to Oldham is as the founder and chief executive of a spectacularly failed enterprise, Collective Spirit Free School, over which there are still ongoing police investigations. There have already been other findings against those running the school, concerning grotesque safeguarding failures, including one instance of child sex abuse on the premises. A significant number of children’s lives were ruined – and many parents and teachers remain utterly despondent that Miah made himself very much wealthier from this disastrous enterprise, but went unpunished. He denies any wrongdoing.

He does not visit the town because he is unpopular and made unwelcome: On the last known occasion, it is said he was beaten up by Asian men outside a burger bar, over unevidenced and broad brush allegations, repeatedly made on his ‘Recusant Nine’ platform, inferring that their entire community was either perpetrating, or covering-up, child sex abuse – or running criminal cartels. Or both. No action was taken against the alleged perpetrators of the assault.

For the avoidance of doubt, violence is not condoned in any form by the author of this piece, however serious the provocation. The temptation for those affected to say ‘he got what was coming to him’ has to be resisted – and peaceful, lawful remedies sought.

Which is precisely what this column is about: ‘Bare faced lies‘ and identifying who tells them in the Boroughs of Oldham and Tameside. The reader can then make up their own mind as to whether Cllr Fielding was right, all along.

Starting with the Recusant Nine post on 6th April, 2020 (scroll down the page to the latest posts), a brief analysis of what is asserted by Miah will be inserted under an image of the post. Over time, based on past experience, a clear pattern should emerge. One of a ‘Walter Mitty’ character whose persistent, mendacious bare faced lies leave him entirely discredited.

6th April, 2021

A full and forensic deconstruction of this disgraceful, race-baiting post appears elsewhere on this website (read in full here). Raja MIAH has not repeated any of these allegations since that article headlined ‘Absent of evidence’ was published or referred to them on Facebook since.

In summary, these are the lies in this Recusant Nine offering:

(i) There is no council CSE ‘cover-up’. Quite the opposite, in fact. As set out in very considerable detail here. Fully supported by FACTS and EVIDENCE. 

(ii) There was no ‘HE KILLED MUSLIMS’ rumour. Except the one started by Miah himself.

(iii) There was no sharing of the ‘rumour’ by senior Council leaders and politicians. A point emphatically made by Jim McMahon MP in a quote provided for inclusion in that article.

(iv) Very few, if any, Bangladeshi members of Coldhurst are likely to have contacted Miah. (a) Firstly, because there was no ‘rumour’ (b) Secondly, because so many in that community deeply resent the constant smearing by MIAH of Asians in the town.

(v) There was no incitement to violence towards Gary Tarbuck. That is made up nonsense. Tarbuck, himself, has not posted anywhere on social media, since, that he feels threatened or afraid. Indeed he has has not referred to the visit to Coldhurst at all.

(vi) The police are intervening in this matter. But not in the way that MIAH expects.

(vii) No condemnation is required apart from the town utterly rejecting this latest pack of lies on the Recusant Nine platform.

(viii) Gary Tarbuck has never held elected office in Oldham. His ‘continuing to serve the town’ is yet another decoration of the truth.

(ix) A further deception by both Tarbuck and Miah is the omission of the fact that one of the independent councillors, with whom Gary was showing solidarity in Coldhurst, is corrupt ex-Cllr Montaz Ali Azad. Found guilty of a string of tax fraud and illegal immigrant offences in 2016. The penalties for those offences are not yet spent.

(x) On Tarbuck’s Facebook page, promoting his candidacy in forthcoming local elections, there is no mention of this incident or any fear that the ex-soldier may have as a result.

(xi) A source who lives on the same street as Montaz Ali Azad says that the deeply religious former councillor, and his family, dissociate themselves from the Miah/Tarbuck allegations as they offend Islam.

(xii) Another shameful day for Raja MIAH. How many more do we have to endure?

8th April, 2021

(i) Raja MIAH’s concept of evidence would differ markedly from that accepted by either the police or a court of law. As a journalist and court reporter, it is a topic upon which I am well informed. The assertion by him, and it is no higher than that, of an association between ‘Rusty Wheels’ and myself is another ‘bare faced lie’. 

(ii) Euan Stewart and Cllr Fielding are well able to speak for themselves. For the record, I have never spoken to Euan and have spoken to the Council Leader once in the past seven months, by telephone, and there have been a small number of emails. All transparent, on official business and, as such, subject to scrutiny. I have never met Sean Fielding, mainly due to lockdown constraints. It is inevitable that our professional paths will cross, sooner rather than later, as the epidemic restrictions ease.

(iii) As it happens, through assiduous journalistic enquiries and assistance from a network of sources, I was able to narrow the identity of the anonymous Twitter user down to two possibles. Individuals with whom I have absolutely no connection, whatsoever. 

(iv) What I can say for certain is that the police have had to put in place safeguarding measures for ‘Rusty Wheels’, after concerns were raised over the harassment of one of those two persons that included implied threats of violence against her/him.

(v) Miah has made many claims about ‘inaccuracies’ in my reporting, but never specifies a single one. Also, he never takes up his right to reply. Which would be a straightforward and appropriate form of challenge. Always relying, instead, on his stock-in-trade innuendo and smearing.

(vi) For Miah to claim that others are bullies is simply to deflect attention from his own nefarious activities. What he really means, through his tissue of lies and hate-filled bile is ‘I hate people whom not only stand up to me but push back hard’. Get used to it, Raja.

(vii) Given his own wide-scale and far-reaching failings towards children in Oldham, his repeated attempts to weaponise them against his critics, without an iota of credible evidence, is as grotesque as it is deeply offensive. 

(viii) As for the entire town knowing who is telling bare faced lies, Raja Miah inadvertently stumbles on the truth. I wouldn’t presume to speak for the town of Oldham, and he certainly can’t, but the metrics and doorstep feedback say that it is The Man from Mossley who is much more readily recognised in Oldham as a persistent, mendacious liar.

9th April 2021 (1 of 2)

(i) The ‘malicious blogger’ slur is repeated often and I will rehearse what was written in an earlier piece on this website and ignored by Raja MIAH: The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) spent almost £150,000 (figures obtained via Freedom of Information request) trying to silence my criticism of the disgraced watchdog. The headline in the Huddersfield Examiner that reported on interlocutory proceedings correctly had the ‘malicious blogger’ allegation framed in quotation marks. I was neither present nor represented at that first hearing. Once my barrister was instructed, matters took on an entirely different hue. That allegation was not repeated, either in witness evidence from the IPCC caseworkers or in submissions made by the watchdog’s counsel. On the last working day before a final court hearing, that I was absolutely determined would go ahead, the IPCC capitulated and a compromise agreement was signed on terms that were favourable to me. At their insistence, a confidential annex was attached to the consent order which prevents me articulating exactly what those terms were. The temporary injunction was lifted and there is no final finding of malicious blogging. That leaves Miah, and his acolytes, who frequently post the ‘malicious blogger’ term, very exposed in terms of defending either defamation or harassment proceedings.

(ii) The ‘proven liar’ allegation, also repeated very often, arises from a libel judgment entered against me in 2014. Damages of £60,000 and costs of £18,000 were awarded to the claimant, a police sergeant who was a long-term friend of the former BBC personality, Jimmy Savile, and a regular visitor to his home. Due to ill-health, and financial embarrassment at the time, I was unable to afford representation or defend myself. The episode is, very obviously, one of considerable regret. However, both of those sums were settled some years ago and the matter concluded. Raja Miah is, of course, entitled to refer to those proceedings (no more than twice before it becomes a course of conduct of harassment) but he will, ultimately be put to proof, as will others, before a court of law, that he is entitled to refer to me, repeatedly, as ‘a proven liar’. The more he does it, the greater the difficulty in which he will find himself. If he takes independent legal advice that would be readily explained to him.

(iii) Miah claims that I ‘repeatedly promoted lies’ about him being a police informant. That is incorrect: I have on several occasions posed the question as to why, despite the commission of the most obvious and well-evidenced criminal offences of harassment, committed by way of posts such as these, on the Recusant Nine platform, he has not been arrested, charged and prosecuted. It was posited by way of the fact that many other people in Oldham, including prominent public figures, believe he is an informant or, alternatively, afforded some other form of protection by the police. Known in criminal circles as ‘a roof’. There is no statement of fact that he is a registered police informant. Simply because, if he is, as any journalist or court reporter would know, that information would never be publicly available, unless such an informant turned whistleblower, for example. If Miah denies that he is an informant then, in the first instance, that must be taken at face value. But some may wish to weigh, in the scales of truth and justice, his propensity to tell bare faced lies about many other matters. 

(iv) As explained to Detective Inspector Kenneth Blain, in an intelligence report filed with Greater Manchester Police on Monday 28th March, 2021, I have known a great deal of personal, financial, property and company information about Raja Miah for over six months, including his full address and postcode. That was obtained in order to ensure correct, appropriate and proportionate service of civil proceedings and/or for the purposes of laying an information at Tameside Magistrates’ Court (private prosecution is a more commonly used term). The police were assured that there has been no misuse of that information, whatsoever. Nor would there ever be. Beyond stating that Miah has lived in Mossley since 2004 (information readily obtained from Land Registry upon payment of a fee), and a highly relevant detail that Miah had previously tried to conceal from the wider public, there has been no attempt to identify publicly where he lives, or any association with any other person attempting to do the same. To suggest otherwise is a bare faced lie.

(v) I have neither knowledge of child abuse at Failsworth School nor of Cllr Fielding’s alleged wrongdoing in connection with it. All that can be discerned, from a distance, is that it amounts to more Raja Miah innuendo and tailored narrative, based on the usual second or third hand hearsay. If there is evidence, as is suggested, he should either publish sufficient detail to give readers a clear understanding of what are very serious assertions or, better still, take the concerns and the evidence to Oldham’s Safeguarding Hub. 

(vi) Similarly, I have no idea what Cllr Fielding was doing out walking in the Mossley area, apart from, perhaps, being drawn, as so many are, to the stunning West Riding countryside that borders the town. In which case, he would be showing very good judgement.

9th April, 2021 (2 of 2)

(i) This post alludes to the biggest and most bare faced lie of all. One that was completely destroyed last November in an excoriating piece, headlined ‘Get the white vote angry’, elsewhere on this website (read in full here). Raja Miah, and his cohort (also known as Raja’s Rabble), cling on desperately, and falsely, to ‘the Lee Rigby email’ because, in all truth, there is nothing else of substance left to support their purported claims as ‘child sex abuse campaigners’. The subject email, upon close analysis and taken in conjunction with a plethora of evidence, proves conclusively that there was no ‘cover-up’ of child sex abuse. Indeed, the very opposite is true. Arguably, Oldham Council did more than any other local authority in the country to tackle the child sexual exploitation (CSE) problem at the material time.

(ii) Miah has now dropped one of his previous oft-repeated bare faced lies: That Mohammed Imran Ali was convicted of a ‘hate crime’ against him. He wasn’t. It was a Communications Act offence for which ‘Irish Imy’ (as he is more commonly known) received a fine. The principal witness, Kaiser Rehman, declined to give evidence at the trial, on behalf of Miah, having lost confidence in his former friend and ally. Miah was also very upset that Rehman had contributed significantly to the ‘Get the white vote angry‘ piece and helped dismantle the false CSE cover-up claim.

(iii) Last month, ‘Imy’ submitted a detailed harassment complaint to Greater Manchester Police against Miah. His persistent smearing of Mr Ali includes the false allegation that he was Dale Cregan‘s ‘getaway driver’. Another bare faced lie (as set out in some detail here). Miah also falsely attempts to link ‘Imy’ to the killing of two police officers by Cregan, then attempts to extend the broken chain to those deaths to another of his regular targets, Cllr Arooj Shah. More bare faced lies.

(iv) Miah doesn’t name ‘the gangsters’ who have allegedly threatened him. Very probably because such individuals have more rewarding enterprises to deal with than wasting their time with Walter Mitty-type characters out in the Tameside countryside.

(v) Another regular bare faced lie is his constant reference to “my town” or “our town”. Oldham does not belong to Raja Miah or his attendant Rabble. A fair number of whom, including Miah, live nowhere near the town. They are a small group of belligerent, noisy, mostly unpleasant malcontents who speak for a tiny minority. 

(vi) He will be seeing at least one person in court before this year is out – and it remains to be seen whether his bravado is still extant at that point. Or he collapses in defeat beforehand, via a consent order, in the way he was forced to do recently when faced with a defamation claim from Cllr Riaz Ahmad. Whom Miah had falsely, and grotesquely accused of ‘grooming’ at least one child.

10th April, 2021

(i) The attempts to restrain Raja Miah from posting persistently harassing and defamatory material on his Recusant Nine platform are reasonable and proportionate. The Man from Mossley believes he is above the law. But the tide has turned; he is going to be kept very busy over next few months dealing with the consequences of his actions. 

(ii) As for claims of ‘intimidating’ commentators on his posts, that is arrant nonsense. It is their choice to make offensive, baseless comments in open forum – it is the choice of a journalist to place them in context, in a highly relevant article (see 6th April post above). Those keyboard warriors are either bold enough to stand by what they have said and take up right of reply – or slink sheepishly away with tails between their legs. Having been sucked into another pack of bare faced lies by Raja Miah.

(iii) Miah repeats the “our town” nonsense. If Oldham belonged to him, and those named in that article, everyone else would very probably leave.

(iv) If Raja is not rich, the public of Oldham is entitled to know what has happened to the alleged £millions milked from the Peacemaker racial harmony project and the free schools over a 15 year period. That led to him, at one point, owning four properties and driving, variously, a classic Jaguar, a Porsche 911, TVR supercar and a Maserati, whilst mostly working on a social worker’s pay grade. A contact whom worked with him in the latter part of the Peacemaker era, before it folded with money problems, says Miah also had shares in restaurants and takeaways. Businesses he now often dismisses as money-laundering enterprises.

(v) Miah claims he is not begging. But offers no explanation as to why he should be constantly pressing his supporters for money. Does the plush apartment need more fine furniture or art decorating the walls? Does the top end motor need a valet? Is there a more expensive version of his electronic gadgetry available? Tell us more, please, Raja.

(vi) As for corrupt politicians, Raja omits mention of one who is proven, by Home Office Immigration Service, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, and the Insolvency Service to have committed serious wrongdoing and lost his council seat as a result. One whom Miah now avidly champions. Step forward, the aforementioned Montaz Ali Azad. There are no such findings against Jim McMahon and Cllr Sean Fielding, only bare faced lies.

11th April, 2021

(i) The claim by Raja Miah that ‘everything is either factual or my opinion based on the facts’ is a bare faced lie. It is very difficult to identify, in any Recusant Nine post, one single fact, that is backed up by viable documentary evidence. Many people, including this journalist and others of the fourth estate, have asked for proof of his claims. None has ever been forthcoming. Which is why his posts are being removed, his podcasts taken down and there are repeated social media bans. Playing the victim, which is the only recognisable talent in the Miah portfolio, just doesn’t wash. Those he attacks have decided enough is enough. The day of the Mossley bully is almost done.

(ii) Once the local elections are over, there are a number of people very happy to see Miah in a court of law. His bluff will be called in the way Cllr Riaz Ahmad did (see 9th April post above). Raja lost then – and he will lose again and again. Simply because his actions over a long period of time are indefensible. The police may have their reasons for not prosecuting him and I am more than alert to what they may be; others don’t, apart from limitations on funding. They want to go about their daily business in peace without a bombardment of harassment or to have bare faced lies told against them time and time again.

12th April, 2021

Many of the posts on the Recusant Nine platform are repetitive and tedious. Raja Miah has little new material to offer those from whom he is constantly seeking to milk money.

(i) He chooses not to use the name, ‘Neil Wilby’, in this post but repeats, yet again, the ‘malicious blogger’ and ‘proven liar’ slurs.

(ii) He claims I live in Huddersfield. Although my address, from 2004 up to 2018, had a HD postcode I have never lived in, or near, the town. I have no affinity with it, either.

(iii) He asserts, not for the first time, that I am ‘a so-called journalist’. My credentials as ‘a newsgatherer authorised by the National Police Chiefs Council’ (as stated on the rear of my press card) are well established. As in my accreditation as a court reporter with all of Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service, the Crown Prosecution Service and the Ministry of Justice. I routinely make applications on my feet, from court press sets, before senior judges. If that is not good enough for Raja Miah, then so be it. But it is interesting that one of the key members of his ‘Rabble’, someone who sends him money every month, sees fit to set up a fake anonymous profile on Twitter with my press card as their bio pic.

(iv) He asserts that the legal action being taken against him is regarding grave concerns he may have about the Council’s running of his neighbouring Borough. That is a bare faced lie. It has been made very clear that the legal action concerns harassment and defamation. His conduct, no-one else’s.

(v) He states that Oldham is his ‘home town’. It is not. Another bare faced lie. He was born in Bradford and spent his early years there. He left Oldham, apparently, as soon as he had enough money to do so.

(vi) He claims to speak for the whole town of Oldham. That is another bare-faced lie. He has, or had, 114 subscribers to his Recusant Platform and a similarly small number of viewers of his ludicrous, self-aggrandising Sunday podcasts (the latest had just 71). If a vox-pop was conducted outside the civic centre, asking opinions on Miah’s claims about Cllr Fielding’s ‘bare faced lies’, 99% wouldn’t have a clue on the subject. Ask the same people about the spectacularly failed free Collective Free Spirit school (read more here) and there would, very likely, be a much stronger response.

(vii) Miah’s constant whining about ‘censorship’ reveals a troubled mindset: Always the victim, never the perpetrator. He sees nothing at all wrong spewing out a daily dose of hate-filled bile. The main purpose of which has always been to distract from the shame of exposure over the free schools that he founded, ran and used as cash cows.

13th and 14th April

The Miah response to this article, ‘Bare Faced Lies’, first published on the 13th, was largely predictable. It consisted of three lengthy, intemperate Recusant Nine cherry-picking diatribes that re-hash the same old allegations against the author of this piece. At their centre is the same ludicrous, self-gratifying proposition that someone is going to murder him – and the perpetrator could identify his location from an indistinct long shot of the facade of an unidentified stone building.

There is little or no public interest in repeating the same comments in response.

He continues to deny any wrongdoing in any area of his business past, and in his present personal conduct, and that, of course, is his prerogative; as is my ethical duty to report it if, and where, I find it.

The attack on ‘disgraced’ Cllrs Jenny Harrison and Arooj Shah is a dreadful slur and another bare faced lie. Neither of these elected officials have any findings against them, whatsoever. Both highly thought of in their wards, local communities and across the Borough. Cllr Shah and ‘Team Oldham’ have earned high acclaim for the efficient and effective esponse to the virus epidemic from local, regional and national media. Where is the disgrace in that?

A destruction of the bare faced lies told about Cllr Shah, by Raja Miah, was my first Oldham article last year (read here). It provided vindication for her but, most regrettably, no release from the torment of his persistent, misogynistic harassment.

There are, however, a number of interesting denials, and omissions from his narrative, that will be analysed in the next update to this piece. Although they do appear, at first blush, to be found wanting.

Miah claims that Jim McMcMahon MP and others are ‘distancing’ themselves from me. Elsewhere he claims that the national Labour Party has instructed its Members to avoid contact. Neither has any basis in either fact or evidence:

Firstly, there is no association between Neil Wilby and Mr McMahon, beyond the routine involvement of a journalist and an elected member of Parliament. There is infrequent contact, but he did provide a statement for inclusion in the article ‘Absent of evidence’ published on this website only last week (read here).

He did so because of the grave and demonstrably false, race-baiting allegations made by Miah against him and other Labour leaders in Oldham. Claims that Raja himself now appears to have now resiled from. He has certainly never repeated them once, since the subject article was published. Or referred to them in any form in his response to this ‘Bare faced lies‘ article.

Secondly, I contact Sean Fielding on an absolutely necessary basis. Like MPs, Council Leaders have their hands full at present dealing with the epidemic crisis on top of routine casework and the usual mountain of administration. The latest contact was earlier his month – and I am fully tuned into why he does not want to respond, publicly, to every single allegation against him, and those he leads, that pours incessantly from the Recusant Nine platform.

Thirdly, to the best of my recollection and record-keeping, there has never been a single contact between Debbie Abrahams MP and myself. We do not follow one another on Twitter either.

Fourthly, there is no UK Labour Party ban. Oldham councillors and at least one local constituency party continue to interact on social media, as recently as yesterday.

As part of my wider role as a journalist, I routinely have contact with other councillors and MP’s, across the Yorkshire and Humber Region and the North West, of all political persuasion. There is no reticence at all in Labour officials dealing with an accredited member of the press – and why should there be? Because Raja Miah says so. The proposition is utterly ludicrous.

To weaponise the death of Jo Cox, who was the Labour MP in the neighbouring constituency to my own, at the time of her death at the hands of a far right political extremist, and relate it even remotely to his own situation is beyond sleazy and grotesque. There is, on any independent view, no connection whatsoever between fair and balanced reporting of wrongdoing and an ‘incitement to murder’ of its subject. To then link senior politicians, some of whom were Party and Parliamentary colleagues of the late Mrs Cox, in an alleged conspiracy to murder Raja Miah, simply demonstrates how deranged and dangerous this man from Mossley has become. One might fairly argue that he may be coming perilously close to an enforced detention under section 136 of the Mental Health Act.

Raja MIAH alleges I have told lies about him in this article and particularises his complaints above. These are my responses (and last word):

1. There is an ongoing police investigation into the murky finances of the free schools which Miah founded and run. Referred to the Serious Fraud Office after pressure brought to bear by Angela Rayner MP, the investigation passed through to the National Economic Crime Unit and then Greater Manchester Police. Unless Miah knows any different then it is still ongoing:

2. In my possession is a leaked Manchester City Council report, authored by chief executive Joanne Roney and circulated to relevant council leaders and MP’s. It is a damning six-page document that particularises the safegaurding and child sex abuse failures at the free schools. It is unequivocal and calls in strong terms for further action to be taken by the relevant authorities. Once those formal avenues are exhausted, and only with the express permission of affected victims, then the contents of the document will be storified on this website. In the meantime, if Raja Miah wants to argue with lawyers as to whether that damning multi-agency report constitutes ‘findings’, or not, then he is invited to file and serve the necessary pre-action protocol letter.

3. There are two credible witnesses to the events that I have described. They would be prepared to give evidence to that effect. Given Raja’s unfortunate propensity to tell bare-faced lies then it would be an interesting call for a district or circuit judge as to who to believe. What would, inevitably, emerge in the course of those proceedings is just how many times, since, he can prove he has visited Oldham. Many, many witnesses could be produced to say that he is unwelcome. That is an inalienable fact.

4. There is nothing ‘clever’ about asserting one’s personal beliefs, especially if they are widely known and regularly broadcast on social media. I am in the fortunate position, both as an individual and through my vocation as a journalist, of not having to seek approval from Raja Miah for what I write, or explain every nuance to him and his cohort. If they don’t care for what is written, walk around it as you would if you saw dog excrement on the pavement. There is no obligation to step into it.

Also, I do not intend to attempt to provide multiple explanations to counteract the same lie that Miah repeats over and over again. But for simplicity, it is stated, unequivocally, that I have not said he is a police informant, but posed questions on social media to the effect that he may be one. As a credible explanation as to why he has not been arrested, interviewed, charged and prosecuted over the most dreadful, persistent, offensive harassment against a large number of Oldham citizens, elected officials and paid officers.

As it happens, in my possession is an account from a named witness who states that Raja was believed to be ‘a police informant’ back in the days when he lived or worked close to the old Chadderton Police Station in Victoria Street as a younger man. It goes on to say what relatively low-level activity Miah was alleged to be involved in at the time. It is very specific. Nevertheless, it is no higher than an allegation and one, doubtless, that Miah will deny. But the point is this; such information has been in the public domain since long before my investigations in Oldham began, and articles were published on this website, and Raja Miah has come to no harm. Nor did he scream at the time, or at any time since, that he was in danger of his life, as a result.

As Detective Inspector Kenny Blain explained to him, when dismissing criminal complaints made by Miah against me, a ‘police informant’ can take many forms and he is, on his own admission, almost certainly Oldham Police’s most prolific correspondent, with hundreds and hundreds of pages of complaints and disposals passing between them. Falling squarely into one of the specific categories that DI Blain had so carefully pointed out.

The proposition that these revelations are either likely to cause harm or intended to cause harm is roundly rejected. Not least, if he felt that way and was genuinely afraid, why make post after post on Facebook about it, drawing further attention to the possibility?

15th April, 2021

If Raja MIAH has a nemesis in Oldham it is Tahir Mushtaq – and here I must declare an interest: Having met Tahir for the first time last Autumn, to interview him over Oldham’s recent cultural and political history and to tap into his vast knowledge of the town, and many of its leading community figures, we have become firm friends. An articulate, intense, deeply religious, strong-willed family man, he is utterly committed to making Oldham a better place to live and a more cohesive, inclusive town. That came across, above anything else, in the first ten minutes of conversation and questions – and why we have become drawn together.

He is actively involved in, and a contributor to, a number of charities, and other good works, but makes no song and dance about that. His pleasure, in my informed estimation, is giving and providing succour to the needy.

Compare and contrast with Raja Miah’s contribution to charity, or wider society, in Oldham. Which, conversely and perversely, is to extract money from its citizens on a flimsy pretext rather than putting anything back into the town.

Tahir’s younger brother, Shaid is an elected Member of Oldham Council and serves the Alexandra ward, close to the town centre and the office in which I interviewed his brother. I have spoken once to Cllr Shaid Mushtaq, for around 30 minutes, ahead of publishing what has become a seminal piece on this website ‘Get the White Vote Angry‘ (read here).

He too, although a little less forthright, is another impressive individual. The willingness to engage, commitment to serve and improve the lives of those in his ward, under testing circumstances, coming across in every sentence.

The Mushtaq brothers come under fire from Raja Miah, on a routine basis, with his contrived, absent of evidence ‘Asian Cartels’ and ‘Gangster’ narratives. Shaid now picked upon, and bullied, because his elder brother had the temerity, over a period of six months, up to April, 2020, to relentlessly expose the tailored narratives and outrageous untruths posted on the discredited Recusant Nine platform. Amongst neutral Oldhamers it left Miah’s credibility seriously impaired.

Raja’s response was, according to him, to send a 100 page dossier about Tahir to the police. It resulted in no further action by the Greater Manchester force.

The latest post by Raja Miah, about Tahir Mushtaq, dated 15th April, 2021, is another desperate muddle. Miah is very free, almost every single day, with his gratuitous insults and peurile name-calling is, plainly, very touchy about being called ‘A Sewer Rat’. In the light of what Raja has posted about the late Jo Cox, one might say that Tahir was being generous?

The invitation for ‘The Pakistani Glodwick Goons’ to visit his home in Mossley runs counter to the fear Miah says he lives in. If violence was in issue, and it very plainly is not as far as the Mushtaqs and the other unidentified ‘Goons’ are concerned, Tahir wouldn’t need company. He is as strong as an ox, fleet of foot and as fit as a flea. A fighting machine, but in the ring not on the streets.

But what Tahir really, really wants, very much, is not a fist fight or a martial arts contest, but for Raja to seek professional help: Counselling, prescription drugs could avert a bigger crisis in someone who has, so plainly, lost the plot and is utterly consumed by hatred and revenge.

These obsessions with constantly making himself the victim, telling outrageous bare-faced lies that he cannot back up and, more crucially, violence and murder (and going to bed with a large knife, bought specially for the purpose) is seriously concerning and one, for sure, that is not lost on the local police. Particularly, as they had to recently put in place safeguarding measures for a harassment victim of Miah and his cohort. A matter in which I was able to provide some assistance to GMP.

The dispute between Miah, Tahir Mushtaq and Longfords has been investigated by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority and the complaint(s) made by Raja not upheld. There was also an internal disciplinary enquiry, within the law firm, over the matter and a public statement issued. I know no more than that. Except, that one of Miah’s core tactics is to constantly re-hash his mountain of similarly failed complaints, ad nauseum. A characteristic of most, if not all, serial and vexatious complainers.

The allegations Miah makes regarding ‘hatred of Jews’ has no specification, supporting evidence and appears not be supported by application or complaint. When they are, appropriate journalistic enquiries will be made. In the meantime, it is classified as a baseless smear to distract from a lengthy, serious complaint made to Facebook, by Jim McMahon MP, over a series of allegedly anti-semetic posts on Recusant Nine.

15th April, 2021

If Heineken did persistent, mendacious liars they would call it Raja’s Brew. He repeats for the umpteenth time, mainly because there is nothing else left in the Miah locker, the Lee Rigby bare faced lie. For emphasis, the forensic, fully evidenced article, Get the White Vote Angry, completely destroying this Raja Miah myth, is weblinked here. As articulated elsewhere on this website, the shameless weaponising of the murder of a soldier, in these Recusant Nine posts, is on a par with linking his own alleged mortal danger to the late Jo Cox.

As for the allegations against Cllr Sean Fielding and Failsworth School, like so many others propogated on this platform, consist of innuendo and a loose association of facts. Yes, Cllr Fielding was a Governor at Failsworth School. Yes, there has been at least one court case involving a teacher there. But how does that (i) equate to a ‘cover-up’ if the offender(s) have been reported and prosecuted? (ii) a matter in which Cllr Fielding could have been directly involved with? (iii) Is the unspoken smear that all teachers, headteachers, safeguarding partners, the police and the other governors were involved with this ‘cover-up’.

Any, or all, of those mentioned have every right to be aggrieved at the imputation of very serious wrongdoing. If it was decided to take legal action against him, jointly or severally, he would appear to have little or no defence to a claim.

For clarity, in relation to the role of school governor, this is a widely accepted specification for the role:

-Is accountable for the performance of the school to parents and the wider community.

-Plans the school’s future direction.

-Selects the head teacher.

-Makes decisions on the school budget and staffing including the performance.

-Management policy.

-Ensures the agreed curriculum is well taught.

None of those components would give substance to the allegation that an individual governor had locus over matters concerning the behaviour, criminal or otherwise, of a schoolteacher. For the avoidance of doubt, and mindful, and respectful, of course, of the front centre placement of the abuse victims, this is not a defence of Cllr Fielding – he is a bit part player in all of this and appears to have little or no culpability – it is put up for the benefit of the many other innocent parties now tainted by Raja Miah’s thoughtless actions and gratuitous smearing.

Postscript

In the meantime, his home borough of Tameside, Oldham and the rest of Greater Manchester await something original and engaging from Recusant Nine that might, just might have a ring of truth. Before it is finally closed down permanently by Facebook.

Page last updated: Tuesday 20th April, 2021 at 1055 hours

Photo Credits: Facebook.

Corrections: Please let me know if there is a mistake in this article. I will endeavour to correct it as soon as possible.

Right of reply: If you are mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let me have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory it will be added to the article.

© 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, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

If only, Madam Mayor

Several weeks ago, a well known and notably successful justice campaigner, Gail Hadfield Grainger, sent me a video clip (writes Neil Wilby). It featured a friend of hers, Arooj Shah, a prominent Labour Party politician in Oldham, an East Lancashire mill town in the North of England. It was filmed in the Council chamber as Cllr. Shah was moving a motion on harassment and abuse in public life, which called for a letter to be written to the Minister for the Cabinet Office to seek a cross-government response in tackling the issue.

Gail, over and above seeking justice for Anthony Grainger, is active in the same town. She supports the widow of André Moura, brutally killed in the back of a van by the same Greater Manchester Police who shot her own partner; also provides pastoral support to a victim of child sexual abuse in Oldham and champions an Oldham-based charity, The Greengate Trust, which undertakes overland aid missions to places such as war-torn Yemen and temporary refugee camps on the Greek Isles.

It is through giving so much of her time and considerable energy to others that Gail met Arooj, whilst she was doing the rounds of MPs in the Manchester and Salford area, harvesting support for her justice campaigning. At the time, Arooj was working in the office of Hazel Blears, prior to the MP standing down in 2015.

They also have a mutual friend, who works for Greengate, Mohammed Imran Ali, better known locally as ‘Irish Imy’, whose past association with notorious cop killer, Dale Cregan, forms just part of his local infamy. He is pictured here with volunteer colleagues and three Oldham police officers, who also enthusiastically support the work of the Trust.

For clarity, the officers are not ‘taking the knee’, as the Black Lives Matter campaign did not begin in earnest until a few months after this photograph was taken.

As a nod to Gail’s work, and the high admiration for her campaigning, particularly in almost single-handedly bringing about a public inquiry into Anthony Grainger’s death (read more here), the video clip was viewed, notebook at the ready.

Watching for the first time was an unsettling experience: Either Miss Arooj Shah was an Oscar-winning actress or she was a victim of a seriously grotesque, cruel, targeted campaign to discredit her. Much of the nine minutes speech was delivered through sobs and tears. The distress was palpable.

Shortly afterwards, the video was played a second time. This time without sound and focusing on everyone else but Arooj: Their body language, facial expressions, what they were doing with their hands. Including putting them together for a standing ovation at the end of the speech.

A third viewing, again silent, focused entirely on Arooj. The notebook was still blank because, by this time, the provisional view had been taken that there was more to this speech than politicking and play-acting. A transcript of the proceedings was procured instead. It is reproduced in full at the foot of this article.

The decision was made to take a neutral look at what is behind the individual, the politician, the speech and the allegations to which she alludes. A closer look at her tormentor was already well into the planning stage.

He was not named in the Council chamber, but identified himself as local activist, Raja Miah, in an on-line article shortly afterwards, Welcome to Oldham Part VI. Entirely devoted to a further, unvarnished attack on Arooj Shah, those associated with her, and businesses in which she has previously had, or presently has, an interest. 

Raja is not known to me personally, but he is an individual about whom a great deal has been learned over the past few months. We may have had a better understanding of one another if he had turned up for a meeting facilitated by an intermediary, and fellow Oldham activist, Tracey Gibson, in July. That involved me in a wasted 65 mile round trip and a lost afternoon. It added to the frustration of him not telephone calling, at an arranged time, whilst I was away in Spain earlier in the year. Tracey has now, it seems, distanced herself from Raja and deleted her Twitter and Facebook  accounts.

We have since communicated on social media, both in open forum and, more occasionally, by private message. But my persistent questions about backing up his assertions of wrongdoing with documents, or other evidence, have fallen on stoney ground and led to me being blocked on two of the main social media platforms.

One of Raja’s supporters likens that interrogatory approach as being ‘like a dog with a bone’. In reality, it’s just bog-standard investigative journalism.

Screenshot 2020-10-05 at 09.20.48

One of the issues upon which we clashed, publicly, was his interpretation of an email to which he refers, often, as evidence of a cover-up of child sex abuse in Oldham, a theme to which he returns regularly – and so will I in future articles.

Raja uses this allegation as a basis to attack one of his main targets in the aforementioned Welcome to Oldham series, Jim McMahon MP, a former leader of Council and, since May 2015, the elected representative for the Oldham West and Royton constituency. He is, more latterly, Shadow Transport Minister. Arooj Shah works in the MP’s office, as an adjunct to her main role as Deputy Leader of the Council, and that is how she came to the attention of Raja Miah, he claims.

Arooj is, more recently, the Council’s Cabinet Member for CoVID-19 which appears to have given Raja another stick with which to beat her, as Oldham enters its seventh week in ‘lockdown’.

Extensive enquiries have been made into what has flowed from Raja’s interest in Arooj. A search for the truth: Is she this dreadful, shameless, flighty individual that he paints, or has she been the subject of a contrived attack, designed to damage Jim McMahon by association. Or, does the answer lie somewhere in between?

Arooj’s parents migrated from Pakistan in 1968 to work in the local textile industry. She is one of seven siblings and has lived all her life in Oldham Borough, apart from term time at De Montfort University in Leicester, where she studied Politics and International Relations.

She was first elected as a Councillor for St Mary’s Ward in 2012 and selected as Cabinet Member for Performance and Corporate Governance, with responsibility for key campaigns and communications, in that same year. 

Arooj led Oldham’s pioneering Energy Switching campaign which became the most successful single-authority scheme of its type in the country – and was later rolled out across the Greater Manchester region. A collective bargaining initiative, this saw 8,726 households in the town signing up and making an average saving of £171 per year. Putting around £1.4 million back into Oldham resident’s pockets in a period of national austerity. 

In 2013, Arooj was named ‘Young Councillor of the Year’, alongside Oldham colleagues, Amanda Chadderton and Sean Fielding, by the Local Government Information Unit. Cllr Fielding is now, of course, Leader of Oldham Council and another local politician under constant attack from Raja Miah.

The Growth Company, where she currently serves as a Director, say: “She entered politics to give people strength and confidence in what they do, so that they feel able to speak up and have a voice. She has also worked hard encouraging local groups in schemes designed to take control of their communities and make them better places to live”.   

They added: “Arooj was praised for speaking out about harassment and intimidation she had suffered as an Asian female councillor before she was re-elected in the Chadderton South ward in May 2018”.

IMG_4368

Given my natural scepticism where all politicians are concerned, the direct feedback concerning Miss Shah was surprising, to say the least: ‘Very hard-working’ is a constant; ‘meticulous’, ‘very correct’, ‘loyal’, ‘dedicated’, ‘kind’, ‘caring’, ‘family and community-orientated’, ‘speaks her own mind’ also feature. A Muslim, she is known to be devoutly religious.

Less surprisingly, she is also regarded as highly ambitious, but not ‘a girl about town’ as they say. Indeed, no trace of a social life has been identified. As she said in her speech, she chooses to live at home with her mother. 

For emphasis, this is not client journalism: If there had been adverse commentary, or any other form of criticism of Arooj Shah, it would have been reported in the same way as the other remarks. In embarking upon this piece, and the ones that will follow, it was in the full knowledge that any unwarranted praise, perceived bias, or mistakes, or will be seized upon rabidly by Raja and his supporters.

The allegations made against Arooj Shah

For better or worse, these are the issues referred to in her speech and used by Raja Miah as a basis for undermining and discrediting her. At the same time, he rejects the notion that there is a mysogynistic element to his campaign.  

 – Slept her way to the top

This is referred to centrally in the speech, as is the dreadful effect it has had on Arooj. But, perhaps, the best answer is the one that forms the headline to this piece: ‘If only, Madam Mayor’. Beneath that, it is a desperately hurtful thing to say about a woman who is of the Muslim faith with, potentially, dangerous repercussions for her. Especially, when the allegation is made completely absent of any evidence, kiss and tell or otherwise.

The accompanying proposition that Raja Miah’s inbox is crammed full of lurid tales of her personal life appears to be far-fetched, at best. Not least, because the email link from his website is defective and communications are returned with an ‘undeliverable’ message.

Viewed objectively, her lifestyle, and total commitment to her career which, I’m told, involves her rising at 5am each day and finishing well into the evening, would not be conducive, in any way, to promiscuity. Neither would choosing to live in the family home.

The accolades she received after her first election success, and then having to resurrect her career after losing a local election in highly controversial circumstances in 2016, tend to suggest it is raw ability and commitment, rather than powers of seduction, that explain her present roles in politics and wider society.

 – Association with criminals

An interest must be declared here, first: Associating with criminals is something with which I can be charged. Often, in fact. Reporting on them from the press seats in Crown Court and the Court of Appeal; visiting them in custody (I have been inside seven different jails across Her Majesty’s Prison estate); assisting with rehabilitation, lobbying for employers to give a second chance to reformed offenders; supporting prison reform and rehabilitation on social media; campaigning against miscarriages of justice. I even share office facilities with one, when working in Leeds (read more here). That is, largely, who and what I am.

In Arooj Shah’s speech, she deals with her own connection with criminals with a fair and balanced explanation, from my standpoint at least. Given that all but two councillors rose to give her a standing ovation at the end of that powerful presentation, it was satisfactory to them, too. No doubt mindful of Oldham’s high level of criminality within the Borough and the difficulties that would pose if families and friends, or elected representatives, automatically disenfranchised those with a criminal record.

As a court reporter, I can go further in terms of relevance and context in this particular instance: Raja Miah, inadvertently or otherwise, frequently makes a connection to ‘Irish Imy’ as the getaway driver for Dale Cregan, then links that to the murder of two female police officers and, further and much worse, repeatedly asserts a link to Arooj Shah in the same chain. That has no basis in fact or evidence: Cregan did murder PC Nicola Hughes and PC Fiona Bone in a truly horrific, senseless attack, but handed himself in at Hyde Police Station soon afterwards. As such, there was no getaway.

The offence for which ‘Irish Imy’ was convicted, Assisting an Offender, was not linked to the police officer murders. It concerned the aftermath of Cregan killing the well known gangster, David Short, six weeks earlier, and a car journey to Leeds some hours after that murder had taken place. He was jailed for seven and a half years.

It is no secret that I have campaigned vigorously for an inquiry into what is said by well known police whistleblower, Peter Jackson (one of Rajah Miah’s biggest and most enthusiastic supporters on social media), to be the entirely preventable deaths of those two young police officers (read more here).  According to the retired murder detective, the failings of several senior colleagues had much, much more to do with Cregan being still at large than his association with Irish Imy.

The definitive answer as to whether Arooj Shah would be wise to cut loose a friend of 30 years will, ultimately, come at the ballot box. Either at the next local polls or, more widely, when she, inevitably, stands for election to Parliament. In the meantime, Raja Miah appears to be the only person in the entire country making an issue of it.

 – Jim McMahon’s support of Mohammed Imran Ali (Irish Imy)

As set out above, Arooj Shah works in the McMahon constituency office. Raja Miah’s number one target, in what he freely terms his ‘vendetta’, is that same Member of Parliament; apparently over a grudge related to the ‘blacklisting’ of Raja, after spectacular failures at schools he operated in Manchester (read more here). A government investigation cast “significant doubts” on the legitimacy of money paid to a company connected to Miah (read more here), but concluded it was too difficult to establish a money trail. The probe, inexplicably, looked at just two years of transactions.

It is understood that the Serious Fraud Office are presently seized of those matters, following pressure from another local MP, Angela Rayner. But that is not to imply any wrongdoing by Raja Miah. The presumption of innocence must apply until investigations are complete.

Arooj appears, from this journalists’s vantage point, to have been caught in the cross-fire of the McMahon/Miah war of words (read more here) and, thereafter, seen as an easy target.

Screenshot 2020-10-05 at 09.46.37

This is what has been established as fact, as opposed to what is asserted by Raja, over a letter sent from the MP’s office regarding prison licence conditions: ‘Irish Imy’ is registered as a constituent of Jim McMahon MP; it is routine for elected representatives to assist such persons, irrespective of their antecedents; Arooj played no part in the letter that was written to the probation service, she has no locus as far as casework is concerned; the subject letter did not concern an early release, as claimed by Raja, the prison sentence was indeterminate (read more here); the subject matter was an appeal against a proposed, unscheduled transfer from a bail hostel in Oldham to more remote premises, away from his partner and young family. 

It has to be said that being adjacent to the criminal justice system, and a network of reliable contacts within it, makes access to this information far easier for me to secure than it might be for Raja. But it is a curiosity that he should ground a story entirely on speculation and, seemingly, absent of any interrogative feature. 

 – The genesis of the friendship between Arooj Shah and ‘Irish Imy’ 

Raja Miah has made a qualified assertion that he does not believe the friendship between the two is what Arooj articulated in her speech. That is to say, they have known one another since the ages of 11 and 9 respectively.

That, unqualified, would be a very serious allegation to make: A Muslim woman, devoted to her faith and her God, notably successful in her chosen career and a high profile political figure across the North West region of the UK, lies to an entire Council chamber, knowing that there would be high media attention to what was quite sensational subject matter. Just one credible witness coming forward, to rebut the longevity of the friendship, would end her political career and destroy her reputation.

Equally concerning, is the foundation for the Miah assertion: An anonymous post, using the handle ‘Bashah’ in the comments section of a newspaper; screenshot, very conveniently, by Raja prior to it being removed by the moderator.

There are two errors in that post that are easily put right: ‘Bashah’ claims that ‘Irish Imy’ and Arooj’s brother were ‘locked up in HMP Buckley Hall together’. Arslan Shah has never been in Buckley Hall prison. His trial and conviction was never reported. I am aware, via criminal justice contacts, of where Arslan was arrested, tried and imprisoned. Raja plainly is not.

‘Bashah’ also claims that a man nicknamed ‘Shanny’ was Arooj’s boyfriend. My enquiries locally firmly conclude that is also untrue: Shahnawaz Qumer, for that is Shanny, subjected Arooj Shah to an obsessive, persistent and unpleasant campaign of highly personalised harassment and stalking. They were never in any relationship, it seems.

Screenshot 2020-10-04 at 17.52.40

‘Shanny’ was not, as he should have been, prosecuted for those activities, but he did end up in prison in 2015 after standing trial over a find of 30kg of cannabis, worth £300,000, at the address of a friend. Qumer, a married man with three children and serious financial problems, lied to police about his role transporting the drugs from Hertfordshire to Oldham before, eventually pleading guilty (read here). An unlikely suitor for a young, attractive, well-grounded high achiever; but a likely ‘informant’ for Raja Mia’s campaign against her.

Remarkably, those matters did not show up when Raja was ‘researching’ Shanny, but an alleged assault upon him, by Irish Imy, did. Conversely, and perversely, I can find no trace of this alleged assault, either in the public domain or via my criminal justice contacts. Or an Oldham Councillor wearing Jimmy Choo shoes in the council chamber or in a local MP’s office.

What is unclear is why Raja was checking into Shanny at all: They have been friends since they sat opposite one another in secondary school. The source of that information is Raja, himself. 

It has been pointed out since this article was published that ‘Bashah’ is possibly, or indeed probably, a play on Bash Shah (as in Cllr Shah). If that is so, and the readers will judge for themselves, the suspects as the likely authors of that newspaper comment is reduced to a very small number. 

 – Register of business interests

Without wishing to diminish what, taken to its extreme, is a criminal offence under the Localism Act, 2011, and the effort and informed research to bring it to the public’s attention, this is very much a case of Raja Miah making an ice cream sundae out of a well-licked lollipop. The truth is not difficult to uncover and involves talking to people and asking questions, rather than just bashing away on a keyboard: The business was set up by Arooj for her brother, Arslan, whilst he was in prison. The Shah family were desperate to keep him occupied after his release and out of further trouble. In that regard, the venture has been a success, whilst not prospering financially. A matter readily ascertained at Companies House (read here).

If there was an oversight in declaring what, at the time, was a dormant business, dogged by the builder refurbishing the premises going bust, then Miss Shah is guilty as charged. The matter has been investigated by the Council’s Standards Committee and there has been a disposal. No-one gained from, or came to harm over, the registration error.

The Miah proposition that this ice cream business is a disguise for a money laundering operation, and Arooj Shah was, at its formation, a ‘shadow director’ fronting it, appears to have no basis in fact or evidence. 

 – Asian Cartels and Block postal votes

Any assertion that Arooj Shah benefits from involvement with any alleged cartel, Asian or otherwise, or vote rigging, is defeated in just one sentence: She lost her St Mary’s seat at the local elections in Oldham in 2016. 

After the narrow defeat (289 votes), a piece to camera was broadcast on BBC Newsnight in which Arooj complained of an organised mysogynistic campaign against her. This followed an on-line BBC article two months earlier in which she spoke of resistance from some Labour members, in her predominately Asian ward, to a Muslim woman representing them: “There’s Labour Party members who will accept my two ward colleagues, Asian men, but support anyone but me. They’re members of the local Labour party. They are shameless about it… It’s because I’m a woman and anyone who sugar-coats it is lying.”

Screenshot 2020-10-05 at 08.30.22

She, plainly, still feels very strongly about that issue to raise it again so powerfully in her speech in the Council chamber.

Historically, Oldham has been at the forefront of publicity over postal vote rigging, but it is 20 years since there has been a successful prosecution. In 2014, the town was named as an ‘at risk’ location with police and Returning Officers alerted by the Electoral Commission. Particularly in local communities where there are ‘low levels of literacy or a lack of English skills’.

The Council and Greater Manchester Police have both been contacted regarding the number of complaints of postal vote rigging in the Oldham Borough since 2014.

Requests have also been made to the same two public authorities to ascertain the number of retrievable documents that are returned, electronically, from the search term ‘Asian Cartel Oldham’.

Conclusion

The reader is, of course, invited to form their own view of events, before, during and after Arooj Shah’s speech, and my reporting of them. Earlier in the piece, I posed the questions, is she a bad person of low morals, the subject of a sustained, contrived attack by Raja Miah – or does the answer lie somewhere in between? You decide.

But, from this journalist’s standpoint, it has heavily underscored a suspicion I first formed two months ago and have posted about regularly on social media ever since: Almost all of Raja Miah’s assertions have little or no safe ground beneath them – and facts and evidence are in short supply. A point that will be explored in more detail in the succeeding Oldham articles in what, at present, is planned to be a series of four. The next piece covers the question of whether his core, and frequently repeated, allegation of long-running, widescale, multi-agency cover-up of child sex abuse in Oldham has substance. 

Both Arooj Shah and Raja Miah have been given right of reply to this article.

Raja Miah did not respond to me directly but, in an angry post on his Recusant Nine Facebook page, he has launched into an entirely predictable ad hominem attack. He goes on to describe the article as ‘all Wilby’s crap’ ‘a eulogy to Arooj Shah’ and a ‘so-called exposé’. He has not addressed any of his evidential failings, brought to light in this piece, or, much more crucially, apologised for smearing Arooj Shah. 

The Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council press office did not respond to the request for comment on behalf of Cllr Arooj.

 

Page last updated: Thursday 8th October, 2020 at 0600 hours

Photo credits: Oldham Chronicle, Greengate Trust, ITV News, MEN

Corrections: Please let me know if there is a mistake in this article. I will endeavour to correct it as soon as possible.

Right of reply: If you are mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let me have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory it will be added to the article.

© Neil Wilby 2015-2020. 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.

 

Transcript of Arooj Shah speech, 8th January, 2020

Arooj Shah: Thank you, Madam Mayor. Before I go into this can I just echo what the Leader of the Council, Sean Fielding, has said. We’ve heard some fantastic contributions tonight, and the comments that Steve [Bashforth] made are absolutely right, and Cllr Sam Al-Hamdani.

This motion isn’t about self-gratification, it’s not about saying ‘Oh God, we’re so sensitive and we’re politicians that can’t take what people say about us’. We are open to scrutiny and we are open to accountability, that’s what we fight for and that’s why we come here – and we put in all the work that we do. 

But what we can’t say is that it’s okay to be personal, to attack us, to abuse us because that just doesn’t impact us, it has a massive impact on our family.

And we enter politics that’s a choice we make as individuals, we don’t ask our family members, our loved ones and our friends ‘Are you okay with this?’ because what might be said about me – rightfully or wrongfully – will have an impact on your life.

That is something we don’t do, so this motion is simply about saying treat us with the respect that we honour, and this job, Madam Mayor. When I got into this, I didn’t think that I would spend my whole life, give up my whole life to politics, and I did. 

I sacrificed some personal choices, that I have made myself. I have sacrificed them because I believed I could serve my community and I think I’ve done a really good job.

And like Cllr Bashforth says, for people who think that I haven’t, I’m there for you to ask me and challenge me in a respectful way, and I will respond to that.

But if you’re going to take to social media, and call us names, then that’s not acceptable I am not going to be ashamed of standing up and speaking up for myself, and other people who give their lives up to public service.

So, Madam Mayor, I want to thank the Members in this debate. And, at times, I suspect many of you feel alone and, perhaps, even isolated, and I want to say that my door is always open for you. So, if you need any support, help or guidance please feel free to get in touch.

And I say that because I know how this feels, I can speak to my own experience Madam Mayor, the person embarked on a targeted campaign of harassment for no other reason than I dared to challenge his behaviour.

The individual deliberately sought out to bring shame to me in my community and impact my family.

Actually, Madam Mayor, I’m touched by the contributions that have been made tonight and I resent the way public servants aren’t allowed to stick up for themselves without being told that they’re self-obsessed.

So, this individual came after me because I dared to challenge his behaviour. He inferred that ‘women in my profession must have sexually transmitted diseases and the only reason I hold the position I do is because I slept my way to this position’.

If only, Madam Mayor.

He also indicated in other posts that he has an inbox full of stories about my personal life, and he makes threats to publish these. 

The pattern of directing attacks towards my personal life Madam Mayor, by him is not a coincidence.

He has caused great distress to me within my community, but you know what more importantly, he’s caused upset to my family. 

It is textbook misogyny, and I’ll use that word and no doubt later on he’ll start saying ‘oh my god she uses this to progress her professional career.’ No I don’t, this is my reality and I’m sick of that being undermined.

He has clearly designed to cause me sustained reputational damage, it soon moves on though because he claims to be a fictional writer and he does write a lot of fiction.

He soon moves on, though never too far from him accusing me of covering up child sexual exploitation Madam Mayor, who in this chamber would ever do that.

What kind of person does it take to do that, and the very fact that this person can think it is more of a reflection on him than it is on me or anyone in this chamber.

He then goes on to accusing me of misusing my position in public office, and people say to me all the time, ‘Well, if that’s not true why do you not answer it, why do your colleagues not answer it, why isn’t Sean answering the fact that he’s not a paedophile protector, why isn’t Jim McMahon answering these questions?’. Because we are too aware that if you were to counter every accusation he makes, that something more ridiculous and outrageous will follow. 

Madam Mayor, because he and these people are not about truth, they’re about intimidation and that’s what he tried to do.

Madam Mayor, I was born and raised in Glodwick, Oldham, and I came into public service because I wanted to serve my community.

I have always acted appropriately in my political and professional life. I have never abused my position and I have never, ever compromised any confidences. 

But Madam Mayor, that in and of itself is not enough when the level of attacks against you are not about the truth.

He then went on to share pictures of me with my brother, and one of my friends called Mohammed Imran Ali, who I’ve known since I was 11 years old.

Both of them have been into prison, but he did that because he wants to create a perception that I am part of a criminal gang, that I’m part of “a cartel”.

Madam Mayor, he knows full well that I have not covered up child sexual exploitation, that I have never misused my position in public office, because he’s asked these questions and he’s had the answers.

He knows that I am not part of a cartel, but he is also fully aware that I would not condone any acts that my brother did or that my friend did.

But Madam Mayor, whilst my longstanding relationships and friendships will be difficult for some people to accept, and I fully understand that, I can’t pretend that they don’t exist. 

And I certainly cannot turn my back on people I’ve known since childhood for political convenience. 

And I certainly don’t forget where I came from, there were times in my life Madam Mayor where I could only put in about £3 worth of petrol (in my car) I’d have to consider every journey to see whether it was worth me making. 

Now I’m in a position where I don’t even consider my journeys, and I’m able to put petrol in my car without giving it a second thought.

There have been times in my life where I have longed for certain types of clothing, shoes or for my hair to get done in the hairdressers, and I’d have to consider my choices, but today Madam Mayor, I’m fortunate enough to do that for myself.

And not just for myself, I’m fortunate enough and blessed enough to be able to do it for other people that I care about. 

There were times where I thought will I ever have my own home; will I ever be able to move out? Now Madam Mayor I have my own home, but I live with my mum out of choice, and all this happened because somebody believed in me.

Because the kind of community that I came from, the stacks are against you. It’s hope and it’s opportunity, and somebody believed in me.  

I swear to God, if people believe that I have not got to be the first Asian female Cabinet Member of Oldham Council, and the first Asian female statutory deputy leader of Oldham Council, by not working hard, I can tell you this: I have worked fifty times harder than my peers and my colleagues in this chamber to hold this position.

I don’t pretend to be somebody I’m not, Madam Mayor. I am straight talking, but I am very kind and respectful towards people. 

I do not disown people for political convenience or to advance my political career.

Too many people come into public life because they are driven by a passion for public service, a desire for better and believing that they have something to offer. 

But often Madam Mayor, the impact goes beyond those who make the choice to step forward, and it can affect your family and your friends.

As we are fighting for greater protection we ought to reflect that the vast majority of people like Cllr Sean Fielding said, like Shaid Mushtaq said, that the vast majority of people are decent, respectful and want the same for our communities.

So for those who step into public life, I sincerely thank you and to the friends and family that support you, your support means the world, and it’s more valuable than you’ll ever know.

Madam Mayor: Thank you, Cllr Shah. Does Council agree the motion; those in favour?

We’ll class that as unanimous. Thank you.