Number of candidates set to contest Oldham elections drops to 95

With the local elections in the East Lancashire mill town less than three weeks away, the statutory list of wards, candidates, and their proposers and seconders, has been published by Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council (see here).

There are twenty wards in the Borough, and the Council, as part of its Publication Scheme, provides impressive in-depth profiles and statistics for each on its website (read here).

Ten different parties are represented (if Labour and Co-op, and the Labour Party, are counted as one) and a total of ninety-five candidates will go to the polls.

The two Labour parties, between them, field candidates in all twenty wards, as do the Conservative Party and Liberal Democrats. The Green Party has eleven candidates; Proud of Oldham and Saddleworth (the POOS) put up eight; there are five independents; Northern Heart UK has four; United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), Reform UK and Failsworth Independent Party (the FIPs) all have two; Worker’s Party of Britain has just the one. Making up the total of ninety-five. In 2019, there were one hundred and two.

Labour

Zahid Chauhan (Alexandra); Elaine Taylor (Chadderton Central); Mohammed Islam (Chadderton North); Chris Goodwin (Chadderton South); Abdul Jabbar (Coldhurst); Basit Shah (Crompton); Liz Jacques (Failsworth East); Sean Fielding (Failsworth West); Kyle Phythian (Hollinwood); Ur-Rehman Ateeque (Medlock Vale); Mick Harwood (Royton North); Amanda Chadderton (Royton North); Connor Green (Saddleworth North); Stephanie Shuttleworth (Saddleworth South); Ken Rustidge (Saddleworth West & Lees); Cath Ball (St.James); Imran Yousaf (St.Marys); Syed Ali (Shaw); Ros Birch (Waterhead); Fida Hussain.

Conservatives

Jonathan Ford (Alexandra); Sharif Miah (Chadderton Central); Mohammed Jahan (Chadderton North); Robert Barnes (Chadderton South); David Cahill (Coldhurst); Lewis Quigg (Crompton); Shefur Miah (Failsworth East); Jawaad Hussain (Failsworth West); Michele Stockton (Hollinwood); Sahr Abid (Medlock Vale); Dave Arnott (Royton North); Ian Bond (Royton North); Luke Lancaster (Saddleworth North); Max Woodvine (Saddleworth South); Anthony Cahill (Saddleworth West & Lees); Beth Sharp (St.James); Mujibur Rahman (St.Marys); Tom Lord (Shaw); Sajjad Hussain (Waterhead); Mohammed Rahman (Werneth).

Liberal Democrats

Martin Dinoff (Alexandra); Barbara Beeley (Chadderton Central); Katie Gloster (Chadderton North); Joe Beeston (Chadderton South); Mick Scholes (Coldhurst); Diane Williamson (Crompton); Lynne Thompson (Failsworth East); Richard Darlington (Failsworth West); Brian Lord (Hollinwood); Rachel Pendlebury (Medlock Vale); Russ Gosling (Royton North); Ken Berry (Royton North); Garth Harkness (Saddleworth North); Kevin Dawson (Saddleworth South); Mark Kenyon (Saddleworth West & Lees); Joe Gloster (St.James); Pat Lord (St. Marys); Howard Sykes (Shaw); Linda Dawson (Waterhead); Keith Pendlebury (Werneth).

Green Party

Andrea Valencia-Chiverra (Alexandra); Jess Mahoney (Chadderton Central); Daniel Clayton (Chadderton North); Jean Betteridge (Coldhurst); Lina Valencia-Shaw (Crompton); Jim Stidworthy (Royton North); Kathryn Banawich (Saddleworth North); Brian Banawich (Saddleworth South); Roger Pakeman (St. James); Miranda Meadowcroft (St.Marys); Freedom Solaiman (Waterhead).

Proud of Oldham and Saddleworth

Ronald Bailey (Hollinwood); Mark Birchall (Medlock Vale); Paul Goldring (Royton North); Gary Tarbuck (Saddleworth North); Simon Hodgson (Saddleworth South); Paul Shilton (Saddleworth West & Lees); Amoy Crooks (St. James); Mark Hince (Shaw).

Independents

Tracy Woodward (Chadderton North); Montaz Ali Azad (Coldhurst); Warren Bates (Failsworth West); Helen Bishop (Saddleworth South); Hussain Aftab (St. Marys).

Northern Heart UK

Jack Dickenson (Chadderton Central); Cath Jackson (Chadderton South); Rob Vance (Crompton); Anne Fiander-Taylor (Royton North); Paul Taylor (Waterhead).

UKIP

Bernard Akin (Chadderton South); Anthony Prince (Royton North).

Reform UK

Colin Jones (Royton North); Chris Green (Saddleworth North).

Failsworth Independent Party

Neil Hindle (Failsworth East); Mark Wilkinson (Failsworth West).

Worker’s Party of Britain

Lisa Roddy (Chadderton South).

Three wards have six candidates contesting each seat; Royton South, Saddleworth North and Saddleworth South. At the other end of the scale, Werneth has just three.

Four councillors are not standing for re-election: Fazlul Haque (Labour, Chadderton North), Steve Hewitt (Labour, Saddleworth West and Lees), John Hudson (Conservative leader, Saddleworth South) and Vita Price (Labour, Waterhead). Forty councillors are not on the ballot papers, as their terms of office do not end until either 2022 or 2023.

Cllr Hudson retires after 50 years of service to the community. Since 2000, as a Borough councillor and as Mayor of Oldham in 2013/14. He was awarded an OBE in 2017 by the Queen for charitable and political service.

This is the present composition of the Council:

Turnout, in the aftermath of a virus epidemic, is even more of an unknown in this election year than ever. In 2019, 32.95% went out to vote.

The election count in Oldham will take place in various rooms around the Civic Centre and Sports Centre overnight on 6th/7th May, 2021, in order to maintain COVID-safe conditions.

The Mayoral count will take place on Saturday 8th May, 2021.

Returning Officer is Dr Carolyn Wilkins, the Council’s chief executive.

Page last updated: Saturday 17th April, 2021 at 1445 hours

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.

Picture credits:

© Neil Wilby 2015-2021. Unauthorised use, or reproduction, of the material contained in this article, without permission from the author, is strictly prohibited. Extracts from, and links to, the article (or blog) may be used, provided that credit is given to Neil Wilby Media, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Oldham Council Leader slams ‘dog-whistle racists’ and ‘false accusers’.

In a hard-hitting post on his Facebook page yesterday, Sean Fielding delivered a robust blow to critics in the town who have subjected him, his partner and his family to months of persistent, unacceptable harassment and abuse, writes Neil Wilby.

This includes the most grotesque allegations of covering up child-sex abuse in the town, and said to be in concert with many other fellow Labour Party members, councillors, the police and their other partner agencies. As this highly forensic article sets out, elsewhere on this website, there is no factual, or evidential, basis to such claims (read here).

This is the full text of Cllr Fielding’s post:

” The election period has started this week and so my page has been renamed ‘Sean Fielding, Labour & Co-operative’ as I am a candidate.

“Prior to campaigning beginning in earnest, I am setting out that my campaign will focus on local issues.

“This election is about who has the best vision for Failsworth and Oldham. It is about who can get things done for people.

“In the last two years alone I have successfully secured the protection of local green belt, saved the Failsworth to Ashton bus from being cut, donated money to the refurbishment of the War Memorial, obtained investment in local roads, had money spent on refurbishing a local park, got the Council to transfer land at Moston Brook in to a Trust set up in memory of WWI veterans, joined a local Primary School Governing Body, volunteered at the vaccination centre, distributed emergency food from the food bank and reinstated the youth service at Failsworth School.

“All this alongside, as Council Leader, working to bring our buses under public control, supporting local businesses by fighting local lockdown last autumn and negotiating a low price to purchase the Spindles Shopping Centre, which will provide the springboard for our Borough’s recovery.

“I posted recently about the smears, disinformation and bullying tactics that have unfortunately become a feature of local politics in recent months. I had hoped that my post would be taken as a stake in the ground for decency, but no such luck, as the smears, abuse and disinformation has continued with my partner even attacked online for planning to run the London Marathon for a cancer charity.

“Many reading this will be familiar with the smears and will have seen the abuse. You will have seen the unsubstantiated allegations of corruption, the crying of ‘mismanagement’ without giving any credible examples, and the dog whistle racism of suggesting there are shadowy Asian ‘cartels’ that secretly control the Council. You will have seen the comments calling for me to be hung and the encouragement of, and support expressed for, people to assemble and protest outside my house.

“If you hear from people campaigning for one side why the other side is no good, ask them to tell you why and back it up with evidence.

“If you hear them say that they don’t agree with what I, or the Council, have done as a Councillor or Leader ask them what they would do instead.

“And if they make allegations of corruption, or worse, ask them why they are telling you or posting it on Facebook rather than reporting it to the authorities.

“If you are genuinely worried about something you’ve seen or read and want to speak about any local issues I can be contacted any time by clicking ‘send e-mail’ at the top of this page.

“I am a member of the Labour Party, and proud to be so. I work with my Labour colleagues from all over Oldham and beyond to get the best deal for both Failsworth and the Borough as a whole.

“We have a comprehensive manifesto covering all areas of Council work. If you don’t like what is in it when you get to see it, by all means vote for somebody else, that’s democracy. All I ask is that you do so based on the issues, facts and credible evidence”.

In addition to the allegations regarding a grooming ‘cover-up’, and a whole range of other perceived financial misdemeanours, Cllr Fielding has been the subject of a large number of complaints to such as the Council, the Labour Party, the Information Commissioner and the same local police force with whom it is said, by his small group of accusers, to be in concert with him over concealing sex abuse. Not a single complaint has been upheld (read more here).

One of his persistent accusers is Mark Wilkinson, whom opposes Cllr Fielding in the Failsworth West ward as ‘an elected candidate’ for the Failsworth Independent Party (FIP), run by his wife, Kathleen. As will be noted by those who clicked on the ‘Barking up the wrong tree‘ link, Mark is a retired police sergeant, whom, nevertheless, misled his employers in the course of one of those complaint processes. Hardly a matter that will inspire trust amongst the locals.

Cllr Fielding, a local lad born and bred, won the Failsworth seat in 2012, at his first attempt, and was elected Council Leader in 2018. The FIPs, for their part, appear to have no other recognisable policy other than their personal distaste for their near neighbour. They have one sitting councillor, Brian Hobin, who frequently embarrasses himself with the same child sex abuse ‘cover-up’, and more general anti-Sean Fielding/Labour, narrative. To an extent, viewed through this lens at least, that transcends conventional political rivalry.

Another child sex ‘cover-up’ proponent is also standing against Cllr Fielding: Warren Bates, who previously served on the Council as a United Kingdom Independent Party (UKIP) representative with very little distinction, other than a bullying finding against him by the Standards Committee – and the embarrassment of being caught parking in a disabled bay outside the Civic Hall. He describes on social media a cabal of ‘Capitalist cover-up journalists’ in Oldham and the wider region of Greater Manchester – and adds, with emphasis, ‘You know nothing’.

Having written and published over 40,000 words on the various societal and political issues afflicting Oldham, reviewed hundreds of documents, interviewed dozens of people, one might fairly conclude that Neil Wilby does know at least something?

For my part, in what has never been anything else but a dogged search for the truth (read more here), I am variously accused by the same group of malcontents that harass Cllr Fielding, of accepting bribes; being on the Oldham Council payroll (or in the pay of the Labour Party, depending upon which day it is); in the pocket of Jim McMahon MP; Cllr Fielding’s (or Cllr Arooj Shah‘s) puppet; bent; septic; a criminal with convictions; a divi; a nonce; a psychopath; despised by everyone. All without a scrap of evidence to support them. Reported by the same group to the police on at least four occasions (none of which resulted in even a voluntary interview, which I would have been willing to attend, if so invited).

But in the face of those grotesque ad hominem attacks, and wasting of police time, no-one has said either publicly, or to me in private communication: That fact is wrong, that piece of evidence is flawed or doctored, you have no proper journalistic basis for the articles you have written. Given right of reply, those exposed as liars, frauds or malcontents (or all three) spurn the invitation.

As Cllr Fielding notes, if you see such allegations, ask those making them about their motive. Why is it that they fear the truth so much? Where is the evidence behind their shocking accusations. Simply repeating them in a small, but noisy, Facebook forum, or via dozens of anonymous Twitter trolling accounts set up for that sole purpose, does not pass muster.

As for my professional relationship with Cllr Fielding, it is this: He is the Leader of a Council in an area in which I have been active as a journalist for almost a year. Contact with such officials is routine when following my vocation. For example, I rank Sean Fielding alongside Cllr Carl Les, long-term leader of North Yorkshire County Council and a staunch Conservative. Both men, decades apart in age and experience, poles apart in terms of political allegiance, are personable, approachable, courteous, respectful, as helpful as possible within the strict parameters of their roles; open and transparent, more generally.

In passing, the same could also be said of Cllr Howard Sykes, Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Oldham, based on my limited dealings with him.

In this life, respect is earned. Those politicians, blue, red and yellow, have mine – and it is hoped that such professional regard is reciprocated. But, as all three would doubtless confirm, it goes no further than that. They would not countenance anything improper, for sure; and for what little it matters, in the wider scheme of things, neither would I.

Who wins out in Failsworth West on Thursday 6th May, 2021 is a matter for registered voters in the ward. Most will get to talk to all of the candidates on their own doorstep and ask questions, or raise concerns, about what is most important to them. Time-honoured foundation stones of election campaigning. Freedom of speech and free choice at the ballot box.

Some may ask, of course, about the allegations of wrongdoing. That is a matter entirely between constituents and their ward candidates. A point to factor in before the casting of votes.

To be clear: There is no dog for this journalist in that fight, other than democracy being a hill worth dying on. Abuse, harassment and intimidation cannot be allowed to sustain in any election.

Warren Bates and Mark Wilkinson were both offered right of reply. The latter did not respond, Mr Bates says:

“Mr Wilby, if you actually wanted to do something useful, instead of covering up for the incompetence of so called present day lazy journalists, bits of kids desperately trying to catch faceless editors’ eyes, give at least one update on the [Oldham Strand of the Assurance] Review how many interviews have taken place?”

There was a further inference (and not for the first time from Mr Bates) that ‘rewards’ (or bribes) are involved for publishing work concerning child sex abuse in Oldham, that he casually characterises as a ‘cover-up’.

The question Mr Bates asks regarding ‘interviews’ was comprehensively and very publicly addressed in November, 2020. Read the full Oldham Council statement here. It was, in fact, his friend and ‘cover-up’ co-conspirator, Cllr Hobin, whom moved the motion, in full council, at which that same statement was debated.

Less than a week later, Greater Manchester Police issued an update on three investigations flowing from the Assurance Reviews, either completed or in progress (read more here). Operation Hexagon specifically focuses on Oldham was instigated in November, 2019 to look into the allegations of a ‘CSE cover-up’ by the Council (and the same police force). Operation Green Jacket and Operation Exmoor are focusing on historic child sex abuse offences South Manchester and Rochdale.

Page last updated: Thursday 1st April, 2021 at 1125 hours

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.

Picture credit: Bolton News

© Neil Wilby 2015-2021. Unauthorised use, or reproduction, of the material contained in this article, without permission from the author, is strictly prohibited. Extracts from, and links to, the article (or blog) may be used, provided that credit is given to Neil Wilby Media, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Chronic state of Oldham’s political malcontents.

Since I first became in involved in the inner workings of the East Lancashire mill town, over a year ago (read more here), the presence of an unusually large number of politically active groups quickly became apparent. All with a single, and strongly articulated, anti-Labour agenda. A significant portion of it expressed in abusive, harassing and defamatory form, writes Neil Wilby.

They include, in no particular order, The People of Oldham and Saddleworth (The POOS, fronted by Tommy Robinson supporter, Paul Errock); Failsworth Independent Party (the FIPS, a haven for far right activists, founded by ex-GMP sergeant, Mark Wilkinson, and his wife Kath) and their connected cousins Failsworth Street Patrol (a vigilante group); Oldham Heart (a thoroughly reprehensible Facebook group run by Paul Taylor, and another far-right sanctuary), the Neo-nazi run Oldham Eye (seemingly controlled by Britain First’s John Lawrence); the troubled, permanently abusive, money-leeching Recusant Nine platform run by far-right totem, Raja Miah (about whom much is written elsewhere on this website) and Chronic Oldham, believed to be operated by Chadderton resident, Damon Ashworth.

In contrast to most of his contemporaries, the bulk of the Chronic Oldham output appears to be, mostly, as a result of reading, research and statistical analysis. Indeed, a lot of it is interesting and helpful to the neutral reader – and is worthy of a wider audience. Spoiled only by the constant, dreary, adverse and frequently contrived references to local and regional Labour politicians with whom he, plainly, has an axe to grind. Possibly, with very good reason. To use his own words: “Oldham is one of the poorest boroughs in the UK with pockets of extreme deprivation, it has long-term entrenched foreign heritage communities that are as much part of the Oldham landscape as the Pennines are”.

If he simply let the facts tell the story (first rule of journalism) it would be a hundred times more effective – and the citizens of his home town would look out even more eagerly for what he has assiduously unearthed. But that’s not the way it seems to work in Oldham: The truth needs to be decorated if the facts run against you.

So it proved in the only encounter on social media that I have had with Chronic Oldham (I have clashed frequently with most of the other malcontents, mostly in reply to some of the most vile and persistent abuse ever encountered, in a publishing career that dates back to the early 1980’s).

It all started innocuously enough: Chronic Oldham replied to a generic post by Andy Burnham’s mayoral campaigning team that included a typically soporific promotional video clip:

The Chronic Oldham post caught my attention for two reasons: Firstly, I had been highly critical of the breach of lockdown regulations in May, by both Cllr Sean Fielding, Leader of Oldham Council, and Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Angela Rayner. They had been caught in the act, and photographed, by one of Raja Miah’s supporters and he had, of course, gleefully, kicked them hard over it. Secondly, he referenced complaints (or, more accurately, enquiries) made by Cllr Fielding to the employers of four Oldham citizens over apparent connections to, or support of, abusive far-right groups.

My reply was, on any view, measured and sought to be helpful in bringing clarity to the situation. A great deal has been written about those enquiries, subsequent complaints and their outcomes, elsewhere on this website. A link to one of those pieces was included in the response (read here):

The reply from Chronic Oldham might be fairly characterised as terse and overly-defensive. It also contained a surprising, and concerning, assertion that appeared to have no factual basis. In over four months of investigating the complaints, in highly forensic detail, not one person, or organisation, had made the claim that it was forbidden under Labour Party policy for Cllr Fielding to act in the way he did.

The follow-up made two perfectly reasonable points and politely requested a pointer in the direction of the policy upon which he relied. Character limits on Twitter posts prevented me pointing out, further, that it was well rehearsed in the public domain, by Cllr Fielding, that making a defamation claim was beyond his financial means. Ordinarily, you would need around £5,000 to fund initial legal costs that would cover the drafting of a statement of grounds by counsel and a further £10,000 to cover the cost of the court fee at the point of filing and service on the defendant(s). Taking a claim to trial could cost over £50,000.

To which there came no reply and, it is believed, that it was at this point Chronic Oldham decided to block Neil Wilby on the Twitter platform rather than answer the question. An action Mr Ashworth is perfectly entitled to take, of course. But one normally reserved as a remedy for unpleasant behaviour or repeated, unwelcome attention. Indeed, in his own Twitter bio he sets out clear parameters: “Abuse, mass posts, tinfoil hats and Covid deniers = blocked“.

In this particular instance, made all the more perverse by his very recent criticism of Cllr Fielding for blocking Chronic Oldham.

Mindful of his other biographical claim of “facts not rhetoric”, and unaware at this point that I had been blocked, some further assistance was offered in the quest to get at the truth of his Labour policy assertion. Which, by now, were taking on the clear appearance of rhetoric, not facts:

That was followed up by a promise that if he was able to point me to that policy then it would be followed up immediately. A big story of a major ‘cover-up’ by those against whom he was most frequently active and a real feather in the Chronic Oldham cap, one might assume?

But given the ever lengthening gap between his initial, confident statement of wrongdoing by Cllr Fielding, and the invitations to back it up, the clear inference was drawn that Chronic Oldham was ‘plaiting fog’ as we say in the West Riding. There was no such Labour Party policy and, to considerable relief, there was no egg on the face of this investigative journalist. On this occasion, at least.

The Twitter exchange was concluded by this post, once it became apparent that Chronic Oldham had pulled down the shutters and he had been exposed as yet another Council critic not above inventing allegations, it seems, in order to smear one of his principal targets. One might hope that after such a humiliation he might take a little more care in the future?

It would also, presumably, be beyond hope that he might actually do the decent thing and apologise to Sean Fielding?

Damon Ashworth could not be approached directly for comment. Although he runs a content-rich website (see here) there is no email contact provided. Described elsewhere as ‘a motion graphics designer and video editor’, the high spot of the Video section of the Chronic Oldham site is an unedited (and unpixelated) clip of a physical confrontation between a young male-female couple in Oldham town centre.

He was previously a clerk with a specialist insurance provider, with whom he fell into serious dispute. In 2013, he launched a petition to remove Jim McMahon as Leader of Oldham Council (read here). Given how poorly it was framed, the petition, unsurprisingly, attracted just 21 supporters.

The Chronic Oldham Facebook posts appear to attract the same class of social media ‘trolls’ that populate the Oldham Eye, Oldham Heart and Recusant Nine platforms.

UPDATE: Some hours after the publication of this article, and without any attempt to contact its author, Damon Ashworth belatedly posted on Twitter his justification of the allegation of misconduct levelled at the council leader. In the interim period, alleged breach of Labour Party policy had mutated into breach of guidance to Members regarding online and offline abuse. An odd choice, one might say, as the question of abusing another person appears not to have been in issue. Either in person, or on social media.

Subsequently, Cllr Fielding was contacted, via the Oldham Council portal, and has, helpfully, provided this statement:

I understand that the conduct to which Mr Ashworth objects, and which he believes is in breach of the section of the code of conduct to which he refers, was the subject of a number of complaints to the Labour Party some months ago. I know this as the complainants told me of their intention to complain or, in at least one case, copied me in to their correspondence with the Labour Party.

Given that I have had no contact from the Labour Party requesting that I respond to any such allegations of misconduct I can only assume that they were found to have no merit and dismissed at the first stage.”

This is a developing news story and will be updated. Follow Neil Wilby on Twitter here, on LinkedIn here and on Facebook here.

Page last updated: Tuesday 9th March, 2021 at 1445 hours

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.

Picture credit:

© Neil Wilby 2015-2021. Unauthorised use, or reproduction, of the material contained in this article, without permission from the author, is strictly prohibited. Extracts from, and links to, the article (or blog) may be used, provided that credit is given to Neil Wilby Media, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

An exercise in futility

This is the seventh article I have written since I first became involved in a journalistic scrutiny of the local council, and the police, in Oldham. A large Borough that forms part of the Greater Manchester region and incorporates a sizeable chunk of the old West Riding of Yorkshire (writes Neil Wilby).

The fifth was published last week (read here) the sixth is, as yet, unpublished. Delayed due to the CO-VID19 virus epidemic ‘lockdown’ and the consequent impact on securing documents and other evidence.

The first two articles, focusing on the output of a political activist based in the neighbouring Borough of Tameside, Raja Miah, created a level of abuse never seen before in almost 40 years: I joined my first local newspaper in 1981.

A neutral examination of a series of allegations made against Oldham Council’s Deputy Leader, Councillor (Cllr) Arooj Shah, concluded that she had been targeted by Miah, and the groups with which he aligns himself, in an unattractive, frequently personalised campaign that gives the appearance of politically motivated harassment (read more here). A matter presently under consideration by the local police force.

The second article highlighted yet more seriously unpleasant, largely fact-free allegations made by Miah against two bereaved families (read more here). No apology or contrition followed, just a cranking up of the abuse and mindless attacks on anyone who challenged the increasingly desperate Raja narrative. Particularly if they have association with his main targets. In this particular case, the friendship between nationally acclaimed justice campaigner, Gail Hadfield Grainger and Cllr Shah.

The third article (read more here) highlighted abuse against two renowned child sexual abuse investigators and a well known local survivor of such a horrific crime who had the temerity, according to Miah, to meet me and discuss the wider situation in her home town. A disgraceful, very public, wholly unedifying attack on that survivor followed. Not just by Raja, but at least one other within the zealous rabble that surround him.

The fourth article was an exposé of one of the key members of ‘Raja’s Rabble’, Kerry Skelhorn, who marauds on social media as “Rocky Skelshaw” spitting out her own brand of venom (read more here). Miss Skelhorn claims she reported me to the local police at the same time (19th October, 2020) for alleged harassment and obtained a crime number. As of today, 8th December, 2020, I have not been contacted by Greater Manchester Police (GMP) on this particular issue. Nor would I expect to hear from them, apart from the conduct of routine journalistic enquiries. Her allegations are without evidential foundation and, in my informed submission, a waste of police time.

As with her local hero, Miss Skelshaw saw the article not as lessons to be learned, and one from which she could moderate her outrageous behaviour, but as a platform for ramping up the abuse. Notably against Cllr Sean Fielding, the Leader of Oldham Council, who took on the mantle of one of his predecessors, James McMahon in May 2019. The leadership was vacated after ‘Jim from Oldham’ was elected as Member of Parliament for Oldham West and Royton in December, 2015. He has been the principal target of the Rabble’s incessant attacks against the Council and, more generally, the Labour Party for over 18 months.

Jim McMahon features centrally in the fifth article (read here), which is a forensic examination of the fatuous, contrived, counter-intuitive allegation, amongst others made by Raja Miah, of child sex abuse ‘cover-up’ by the MP. Centred around the infamous ‘Lee Rigby’ email sent by BBC Manchester reporter, Kevin Fitzpatrick, to McMahon, and others, in 2013, just before the fallen soldier’s funeral in the town.

McMahon will be mentioned more peripherally in the sixth article, which shines a light on the allegations, by Miah, that the East Lancashire mill town is ‘owned’ and run by ‘Asian Cartels’. For which, provisionally, there is very little evidence – and the rantings of the Rabble appear to simply capitalise on the smearing of their critics, or those who choose to stand up against them.

That is an elongated, but necessary, pre-amble to the present piece which examines the ramping up of the recent attacks against Cllr Fielding.

We start from behind the line as it is well rehearsed, on Twitter, that I have, previously, been critical of the council leader’s output on that social media platform and he, in turn, taking exception to those posts. Sean Fielding is a young man going places, there is little doubt about that; but some of his tweets do betray his youth and inexperience. Seized upon gleefully by his critics. The ‘Captain Underpants’ saga, for example, having provided some light relief over the past few months (read more here).

The Labour politician issued a statement in response to what he dubbed ‘Undie-gate’, adding that he was known for his ‘dry and self-deprecating sense of humour’. 

But, despite those mutually adverse views of politician and journalist, after the publication of the investigation into the allegations against Cllr Shah (and not before, it must be stressed), he accepted a routine email invitation to speak on the telephone, on or off the record.

That call concerned, mainly, the background as to how I became involved in the situation in Oldham and how it was proposed to deal with it, going forward. It was a frank exchange and, it is fair to say, I found Cllr Fielding a measured, intelligent, articulate, committed individual, with surprisingly little personal antipathy towards his critics. His principal concerns were the impact on family, friends and colleagues.

He accepted, without question, that my investigations would be independent, first and foremost, and evidence-based. If wrongdoing by the Council, or himself, was uncovered then it would be reported, without fear or favour. He also took on board that I have no political allegiance, whatsoever.

Since then, we have communicated sporadically, neutrally and professionally by email and telephone, in the same way I have done with other influencers in Oldham and the wider region. On the clear understanding that if the output was to come under public scrutiny there is nothing that would be found beyond a journalist engaged in the locality maintaining contact with local politicians, council officers, police officers and staff. As is done, routinely, elsewhere in my spheres of operation.

There is absolutely no question, as has been frequently asserted by Raja’s Rabble, that I am influenced, retained or paid by Cllr Fielding, or his Council, or the police to act as his, or their, ‘attack dog’. As those who know me well would attest, my integrity is not for sale. The gut feeling is that the Council Leader is very much of the same genre. The senior police officers within Q Division, with whom there has been interaction regarding safeguarding, have been impressively responsive, effective and efficient.

The dog I have in this particular fight is being asked, repeatedly, by police whistleblowers, led by ex-GMP Superintendent Peter Jackson, to conduct an investigation into allegations of reprehensible conduct by elected officials and senior police officers in the town. The reality turned out to be very different: It is the disgraceful, obnoxious behaviour of those making the allegations that is called into serious question.

As for Cllr Fielding, this is a distillation of what the issues against him amount to: The modus operandus appears to be that Raja Miah either publishes an allegation (or a scattergun series of them) on his Recusant Nine blog, his Facebook page or on his now infamous Sunday night podcast – and then the Rabble simply chant a chorus without ever, it seems, checking the provenance, or the existence of any supporting evidence, of what is being alleged:

(i) Cllr Fielding is allegedly complicit, and as council leader takes a principal role, in covering up child industrial scale sex abuse in the town.

+ This allegation was publicly, and comprehensively, rebuffed at the last full meeting of the Council. The relevant sections where this topic was aired can be viewed here and here.

+ The meeting, and its out-turn on the CSE issue, was also widely reported in the local and regional media (read more here).

+ Operation Hexagon, a wide ranging police investigation, has been running alongside an independent assurance review of child sex exploitation since November, 2019. The Hexagon probe sits alongside two other widely publicised operations, Green Jacket and Exeter, that have uncovered hundreds of victims and perpetrators across the Greater Manchester Region.

(ii) Cllr Fielding turns a blind eye to a paedophile ring operating out of the Civic Hall.

+ As allegations go, this as grotesque as they come. Particularly as the Miah evidence appears to centre around the activities of a former Liberal Democrat councillor, Rod Blyth, convicted of child sex abuse offences in December, 2019. He resigned from Oldham Council in September, 2017 citing ‘personal reasons’ and with a reference to a police investigation.

+ No indecent images were found on any of his council equipment by the police, who seized and analysed those items. Raja contends that the Council, and its Leader in particular, had a duty to inform the public of this conviction of a private citizen. At the same time, exempting a fellow Liberal Democrat councillor and close friend, Mohib Uddin, from such responsibility. Together with the many other Civic Hall insiders from whom he claims he routinely receives information. Curiously, Greater Manchester Police is not attacked for ‘keeping the conviction a secret’.

+ Of all the councillors to whom I’ve spoken, including the Leader, none had prior knowledge of the Blyth conviction until it entered the public domain. A comment that, presumably, applies to ex-Cllr Uddin. It certainly applies to Lib Dem Leader and former Council leader, Howard Sykes, who issued an unequivocal statement to that effect on 20th September, 2020 on his website (read in full here).

(iii) Cllr Fielding has undue influence with those engaged upon an Assurance Review that commenced in November, 2020.

+ Those persons are the Greater Manchester Mayor, who commissioned the Review, and the investigators appointed by him, Malcolm Newsam and Gary Ridgway. Generally regarded as two of the leading specialists in the country for this type of work. Again, this was dealt with at the last Council meeting, as it had been previously, by Cllr Fielding, in the local and regional media.

+ Messrs Newsam and Ridgway are independent of any body under review. Anyone doubting that status, is invited to read their report on Operation Augusta, published earlier this year (read here). An outcome that was devastating to both the council involved and the police, whose collective failings over child safeguarding were forensically and ruthlessly exposed. The proposition that they have turned up in Oldham to execute a ‘cover-up’ that benefits local councillors, and suits a warped narrative of a group of discontents, simply has no basis in fact or evidence.

The Assurance Review is due to report very shortly. Operation Hexagon has already acted on some of its findings, which are expected to be critical of both the council and the police over past failings in Oldham.

(iv) Cllr Fielding has covered up the abrupt departure of Dr Mark Peel from the Assurance Review and failed to disclose to the public the reasons why the academic beat a hasty retreat from Oldham.

+ Having spoken to a number of interested parties regarding this issue, the best answer, provisionally, is that he did not give a specific reason. Dr Peel recused himself shortly after receiving an email from a well regarded child sex abuse campaigner, whom has since, very sadly, passed away. It criticised his credentials and past record, particularly in relation to what was regarded as a ‘whitewash’ over council CSE failings in neighbouring Kirklees (read more here). Whether the two events are connected only Dr Peel can say. What can be stated with certainty, however, is that there is no ‘cover-up’ (or a reason for one) and the citizens of Oldham are much better placed after the appointment of the two leaders in their field.

+ I can add to that a personal note: Dr Peel had oversight of one of the least rigorous investigation reports ever put in front of me – out of thousands over the years. A case to which I am very adjacent, the murder of Leeds schoolteacher, Ann Maguire, at Corpus Christi School in 2014, includes a safeguarding review signed off by him (read here). It has the appearance of a pre-formed decision with only the narrative relevant to that outcome explored. As expounded elsewhere, Oldham had a lucky escape whatever the circumstances of his resignation. Raja Miah’s repeated attempt to make political capital from the departure of Dr Peel is, put shortly, misconceived. It also conceals the fact that, at the time the subject email was sent to the newly appointed investigator, by the late Steven Walker-Roberts, the two of them were closely associated.

(v) Cllr Fielding accused the activists of ‘bare faced lies’ over their allegations of child sex abuse cover-up.

+ During a public question time session at a stormy council meeting on 7th November, 2019, Jackie Stanton, former Liberal Democrat deputy leader in Oldham, made these points about the allegations.

By way of pre-amble, she claimed that the reputation of the Borough Council appeared, to her at least, to be at an “all-time low”.

“It continues with the extremely serious allegations of child sexual exploitation [‘cover-up’]; there are allegations appearing daily on social media relating to alleged mismanagement and poor decision making [planning] by senior officers of this council,” she added.

Then came the question: “Would the leader agree, all these allegations are extremely serious and damaging to the borough. Will he tell us how he and the chief executive intend to deal with them, and will he tell us if he is capable of restoring confidence in the council.”

Cllr Fielding pulled no punches in his response:

“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 led by Dr Mark Peel. 

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

“I urge people to think twice about these things they read online”.

+ The Leader’s blunt approach to certain issues, and willingness to give undeserving agitators a higher platform, might well be taken on board as a learning point. But the simple fact is this: Raja Miah’s campaigning is characterised by the repeated use of untruths, half-truths, misrepresentations and conveniently trimmed narratives. Anyone perusing the previous Oldham articles on this website can have absolutely no doubt about that. It is a mystery as to how and why he has been allowed to continue in this vein, by both the council and the police, for so long.

+ Similarly, the incessant social media output of Kerry Skelhorn, using her “Rocky Skelshaw” nom de plume, is frequently estranged from the truth. Including her false claim that she “took Oldham Council to judicial review and won”. That was over the planning matter, concerning the re-siting of Saddleworth School, the cause of so much disquiet. An objective reading of the judgment handed down in those proceedings reveals that her role was very minor, as one of over 600 objectors. She was not recorded as either the applicant, interested party or intervener in those proceedings.

+ The reader is invited to form their own view over whether the rantings of just those two can be fairly characterised as ‘bare faced lies’. Particularly, set against a background of Raja Miah repeatedly claiming Oldham is “my town” or “our town”. He hasn’t lived there for 16 years according to Land Registry records. Similarly, with Miss Skelhorn, who has much to say about “her” Council when she actually works for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in Suffolk and Norfolk.

(vi) Most recently, that Cllr Fielding has harassed four individuals by contacting their employers about offensive posts on social media. They are Mark Wilkinson, a former Greater Manchester Police officer who now works, post retirement, for Sodexo Justice who are a contractor to Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service; his stepdaughter Sarah Radcliffe who is a teaching assistant at a local school; Jane Barker, a researcher at the University of Manchester; and Mohib Uddin, an employee of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and, as mentioned earlier in the piece, formerly a prominent Liberal Democrat councillor in Oldham.

Wilkinson’s wife, Kathleen, is the Leader of Failsworth Independent Party (FIP) and Mark is the Treasurer. He is standing as a candidate against Sean Fielding in the forthcoming elections. Several months ago, Mrs Wilkinson sought repeatedly to make contact with me, in not particularly flattering terms. When I eventually responded, she was mostly reluctant to answer journalistic enquiries and sought to paint her husband and daughter as victims.

There is a FIP website that benefits from some smart design and pretty colours, but is completely absent of any news of their aims and values, or any form of manifesto. The be all, and end all, of the FIPs appears to be: We find the Labour Party and Sean Fielding, in particular, objectionable and we are prepared to use fair means or foul to unseat them/him.

The FIPs have one sitting councillor, Brian Hobin, another key agitator in the Oldham Council child sex abuse ‘cover-up’ narrative. His output on the topic rarely appears to rise above the ludicrous, amplified by a motion brought to the last council meeting, alongside the Conservative Group leader, John Hudson, that was, at best, counter-intuitive and, at worst, a poorly disguised attempt to smear the Labour Party and leading figures within it. Notably, Sean Fielding.

Their actions, accompanied by unpleasant, inappropriate remarks during the meeting, were roundly rejected by a very substantial majority of fellow councillors. A fair few of them visibly angry at the allegations laid against them, collectively, by Cllr Hobin and Hudson.

There has been a number of ‘tit for tat’ complaints made against Cllr Fielding:

Mark Wilkinson: He made a Standards complaint objecting to the detailed, wide-ranging complaint against him to his present employer (in which I was also unflatteringly name-checked). Cllr Fielding’s complaint was partially upheld, in that Wilkinson brought his employers into disrepute over posts on social media. Mark did not cite any areas of the Member Code of Conduct that had been broken. This complaint, now dismissed, is one of a number he claims would be made. There have been at least two others, to different levels of the Labour Party, both also dismissed, and it has been posted online that he has reported Cllr Fielding to the police for an unspecified offence (or offences). Cllr Fielding has, at the time of publication, had no contact from the police, other than to check on his welfare in relation to the threats posed by those being mobilised by Raja Miah’s online activities.

A feature of the complaint process was the attempt by Mark Wilkinson, a police officer for 32 years, to mislead his employer by claiming the posts referred to in the complaint did not exist, despite the presence of screen shots.


Jane BarkerAs with Mark Wilkinson, she made a complaint objecting to the enquiry made by Cllr Fielding to the University of Manchester. Essentially, they were asked if the re-circulation of offensive material posted by Raja Miah, using a Twitter account that included the University in her biography, was acceptable to that institution. She was, as a result and quite understandably, asked to detach her personal postings and extreme views from any association with the University. That common sense outcome has produced the most extraordinary, litigious response from Ms Barker.

In her own complaint to the Council, she did not cite any areas of the Member Code of Conduct as having been broken, but listed a range of criminal offences that included misfeasance in public office and unauthorised surveillance. Claiming, bizarrely, that to view her publicly accessible tweets, on an open platform, required authorisation by way of the draconian Regulatory and Investigatory Powers Act, 2000 (RIPA for short).

The complaint was, unsurprisingly, dismissed. Ms Barker, in an email sent separately to Cllr Fielding, also said she would report him to the police for harassment and employ solicitors to sue him for defamation. There has been no contact with Cllr Fielding from the police, or solicitors, in relation to any enquiries or reports Jane has made. Ms Barker also complained to the Labour Party. An official described her complaint as “mad” and it, too, was summarily dismissed.


Raja Miah: He made a Standards complaint to Oldham Council objecting to Cllr Fielding referring to him in the complaints against Jane Barker and Mark Wilkinson. As with the other complaints against Cllr Fielding, he did not cite breaches of the Member Code of Conduct and did not dispute the descriptions of either him or his behaviour. He simply said that he did not like them. The complaint itself also contained personal abuse directed at Cllr Fielding. Miah was given 14 days to clarify more precisely the substance of his grievances. This expired on 30th November, 2020. Nothing further was received from him. Raja claims he has also reported Cllr Fielding to the Labour Party and, he says, to the police. Cllr Fielding has had no contact from either in relation to those complaints.

Raja Miah has also posted a “legal letter” online saying that he was suing Oldham Council for defamation. A check with both the Manchester Registry of the High Court and the Royal Courts of Justice reveals that no claim form with Raja Miah as claimant and Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council as defendant has been filed in the Queen’s Bench Division, as yet. It is not clear how the usual £10,000 court fee for such actions would be funded.


Mohib Uddin: A complaint was made against him, by Cllr Fielding, to his employer, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. It raised the issue of publicly accusing the Council of financial corruption and then providing no supporting evidence. HMRC routinely say that they “take such matters seriously” but do not report upon what action they may have taken. It is public knowledge, however, that Uddin has not tweeted since September, 2020. He told me at the time that he was not at all concerned about the complaint to his employer and laughed it off. He also said that Cllr Fielding had made a complaint to the Liberal Democrats about him. This concerns acting in an advisory capacity to Debbie Barratt-Cole, a candidate in the Oldham West and Royton during the general election. She stood as a candidate for the People of Oldham and Saddleworth Party (the POOS). There is a widely circulated video capturing him at a campaign meeting, advising her on literature. Notwithstanding, Mohib disputes this complaint and there is a hearing, at the national level of the Liberal Democrat Party, on 10th December, 2020, to consider the matter and, if proven, whether to revoke his membership.

There has been no tit-for-tat complaint from Mohib Uddin against Cllr Fielding, although he continues to post negatively about him. One recent Facebook offering, on the topic of a petition that has been raised recently by Raja Miah, calling for the arrest of Sean Fielding, is signed off “Tick tock”.

The petition, addressed to the Home Secretary, has the appearance of a last throw of the dice for those that have complained against Cllr Fielding. Having taken their issues to the Council and the Labour Party – and received short thrift – further complaints, as yet unparticularised, are said to have been made to the police. There has, so far, been no action taken against Cllr Fielding by the Greater Manchester force as a result.

The petition is also an exercise in futility, a point that can be made with some certainty:

Firstly, having sat through a County Court trial, then High Court appeal, over a wrongful arrest of a Bradford doctor that has spanned almost two years and is, in fact, still ongoing (read more here), I would regard myself as reasonably expert in the relevant sections of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, 1984. These govern the reasonable grounds for suspicion of an offence that may lead to an arrest, for which the bar is set low. Particularly, at street level. However, there is a necessity test that the arresting officer must undertake, for which the bar is, conversely, very high.

Deprivation of a person’s liberty by the State is a very serious matter – and Parliament requires that the police explore other means of advancing their enquiries prior to arrest. The most commonly used, of course, is attendance at a police station for a voluntary interview. Particularly, if there is no immediate threat to life or property and the suspect is from a stable background, has no criminal record and is likely to co-operate with the police. All factors that plainly apply in the case of Sean Fielding.

Secondly, the Home Secretary has no locus is such matters. Chief constables of the 43 Home Office police forces have complete operational independence. That includes being able to resist pressure from Ministers of State. The chances of Priti Patel calling up Ian Hopkins, the current incumbent at Greater Manchester Police, to ask him to arrest a Council leader in the force area, regarding complaints that appear to have little or no substance, are, correspondingly, zero.

A surprising aspect of this petition is that one of Raja Miah’s main proponents, the aforementioned Peter Jackson, did not advise him of these key legal issues before making a collective fool of themselves. A remark that could also apply to Mark Wilkinson, who must also have made an arrest or two in a lengthy police career that began as a cadet and ended as a sergeant.

‘Jacko’, as he known widely amongst police colleagues past and present, in a show of Rabble solidarity, has also made a complaint against Cllr Fielding. Apparently, on the grounds that he was mentioned in at least one of the complaints made by the council leader to employers. That is quite extraordinary, on any independent view, when the ex-cop’s Twitter timeline comprises of, almost entirely, dishing out stick to public figures, including Sean Fielding.

Peter Jackson, along with ‘Google Expert’, Susan Dolan, another Raja Miah fanatic, are two of the prime movers behind a Twitter account with the handle ‘Alice Odette Hallowes’ (@TruthsayerOdet1) . This is one of the most prolific and disgraceful accounts on Twitter, with some posts that go to contempt of court at their highest, commenting on live criminal proceedings, and in the gutter for too much of the rest of the time with wild, unevidenced allegations and smears. A matter over which I severely warned Jacko when we last spoke.

Until now, I have had to remain silent as to his association with that entity, as the subject conversation was held in confidence. But, very recently, a former Rabble member was ‘turned’ and the information has now been given to me independently.

Even more surprising is that Jacko, who served as a sergeant in Oldham in the late 1990s, doggedly retains his affinity with Miah after the latter has been thoroughly exposed as ‘a wrong ‘un’. He is also an avid supporter of the far right, anti-Sean Fielding, anti-Jim McMahon, anti-Andy Burnham, anti-Neil Wilby Oldham Eye social media account, whose output, not infrequently, strays into what might very well be argued as racism.

As a result of this seemingly unbreakable link with Raja Miah, the Jackson claims of the moral high ground, by way of his his police whistleblowing, have little remaining substance. He is a laughing stock amongst those influencers to whom I’ve spoken, incredulous that a renowned murder detective could be sucked in by an imposter such as Raja. Their credibility is in shreds.

Moreover, he cannot say he wasn’t warned. Either from this quarter or by fellow police whistleblower, Maggie Oliver.

But the die is now cast, and Peter Jackson is not the only high profile campaigner to have backed the wrong horse. There are plenty of others for whom the canvassing of this journalistic investigation, and all that has gone with it, is now a matter of profound regret.

As for the Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council Leader, he can sleep easy in his bed. There will be no 6am ‘knock’ by the local constabulary, no embarrassing arrest wearing only torn underpants – and no charges in respect of futile, embarrassing complaints lodged by local discontents.

This is a developing news story and will be updated. Follow Neil Wilby on Twitter here, and on Facebook here.

Right of reply was again offered to Raja Miah. He declined all previous invitations and made no attempt respond here, either. Instead, mobilising his foot soldiers to ‘up the ante’ on their smear campaigns.

The same courtesy was offered to Jane Barker, Kathleen and Mark Wilkinson, and Mohib Uddin. No response was received from any of them, either.

Ms Barker elected, instead, to breach journalistic privilege and information rights by sharing a protectively marked email in which the necessary cautions were clearly set out. A matter that will be determined by the County Court, ultimately.

Other political party group leaders in Oldham, apart from Labour, have also been invited to contribute to this piece. Cllr Sykes was both forthright and helpful. No acknowledgement or response was received from either Cllr Hudson, Cllr Hobin.

Following publication of this article, complaints were received by Oldham Council regarding the content that referred to Standards outcomes affecting Raja Miah, Mark Wilkinson and Jane Barker. The Council has, quite correctly on its part, referred the matter to the Information Commissioner’s Office.

Full co-operation will be given to any investigation that follows, if the statutory regulator deems it necessary to record the complaints.

Page last updated: Friday 11th December, 2020 at 1855 hours

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