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

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© 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.

‘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.

Absent of evidence

Tameside’s best known political agitator, Raja Miah, suffered a further blow this week with yet more social media bans, writes Neil Wilby.

Two of his weekly broadcasts on the ‘Recusant Nine’ YouTube channel, purporting to cover political issues in the neighbouring Borough of Oldham, were removed after both were found to contain defamatory material.

An interest is declared, as a significant part of the content was directed at the journalistic output on this website, accompanied by the now-standard personalised abuse.

However, by the time my own complaint was made, the harassing and highly offensive podcasts had already been taken down. At least one of which is now the subject of safeguarding concerns over the safety of one of its targets and consequent police enquiries.

It is not known, at this time, to whose complaints YouTube have responded but, in no particular order, Detective Inspector Kenneth Blain of Greater Manchester Police; Jim McMahon, MP for Oldham West and Royton; and Cllr Sean Fielding, Leader of Oldham Council, and nationally known justice campaigner, Gail Hadfield-Grainger, were also under attack on the podcasts.

Miah claims, publicly, that the MP and the Council Leader are involved in a conspiracy, with me, to incite his murder. DI Blain, and the rest of Greater Manchester Police, is said to be turning a blind eye to the plot. The Facebook post, from 4th April, 2021 articulating that baseless proposition is also subject to complaint and application.

This is the picture that Raja claims puts his life in danger. He further asserts, with no evidence whatsoever, that ‘”Rusty Wheels” is an associate of Sean Fielding and Neil Wilby’. A rather ludicrous picture and a non-existent ‘association’ is the sum total of the conspiracy to murder. Little wonder GMP gave his ‘complaint’ short thrift:

‘The Man from Mossley’ has, it is said, previously been suspended from Facebook on at least two occasions. The social media giant has also sanctioned Miah over monetising his output via ‘supporter’ subscriptions.

Every ‘Recusant Nine’ post, or podcast, is accompanied by Raja begging for money. His latest scheme, and one, it seems, designed to circumvent the Facebook ban, is, also, the subject of at least two complaints to Paypal, who facilitate the ‘Buy Me A Coffee’ scheme.

An oddity, given that he lives in some splendour in an upmarket commuter village on the edge of the Pennine Hills, with a top end car parked in the precincts (he has previously driven Lamborghini and Porsche models) and regular shots of his expensive camera and video equipment being shown off to his audience (his latest podcast has just 222 views, over a week after uploading).

Those who thought that the preposterous ‘murder conspiracy’ was the limit of his stupidity, and propensity to outrage, were, however, wrong:

Just two days later Miah posted this on Facebook:

These are a selection from the comments posted below the Raja Miah offering. Most of them are Recusant Nine regulars. Where necessary, syntax errors have been corrected. Not one contributor asked about the facts and evidence backing up the claims made by their hero, such as who was afraid of whom; questioned the source of ‘the rumours’; referred to the questionable bona fides of a notorious independent councillor; or were curious about why there was no quoted comment from those featured in Miah’s outrageous post.

Graham Whitehead

“Oldham council are the lowest of the low. They will resort to any shitty stuff they can.”

[This ex-UKIP election candidate, and Britain First follower, was reported over racist comments made on his Facebook page, during the 2015 local council polls. He lost badly to Jim McMahon and Whitehead is said to bear a grudge against him as a result.]

Ian Dunn

“OMBC have always had a dirty tricks department. They have now sunk to the bottom of their own cesspit.”

Marlene Williamson

“The council’s actions are disgusting and degrading beyond words.”

Tim Howell

“OMBC threaten good Oldhammers who stand up for town and independents…They protect paedos, crooks, court votes by giving away land for peanuts..Libdems all the wanton (?) May 6th get that shithead out of office.”

Mohib Uddin (ex Lib Dem councillor in Oldham).

“Absolutely shocking behaviour by the ruling Labour Cartel. I urge the town’s 3 Labour MP’s and Labour Council Leader to urgently issue a statement condemning this atrocious behaviour and distance themselves from such hurtful comments. Gary, next time you are in Coldhurst let me know. We are from different political parties but I will proudly walk along with you. This vile behaviour by the Labour Cartel in Oldham has to stop. Full stop.”

Rocky Skelshaw (a pseudonym for Kerry Skelhorn, about whom much more can be read here).

“Raja – it’s not just towards Gary – it’s a British MP INCITING HATE towards the armed forces. It’s TREASON! That’s why I was so utterly gobsmacked by it – have things gone so far downhill in Oldham that we no longer recognise crime – that people shrug this off as ‘unsurprising’. I’m sorry but I do find it SURPRISING that an MP should behave like this! He should be arrested & investigated. Never mind GMP – MI5 should be looking at him.”

Disgraced ex-UKIP member, Warren Bates, said in reply to Miss Skelhorn: “MI5 look at everyone and everything. If any action is taken, your guess is as good as mine. Don’t forget the opposition party is the Lib Dem and they’re all in it.”

Janet Ellis

‘They were rotten to the core 20 years ago when we lived in Oldham. Seems nothing has changed. Labour will always be the same. Wouldn’t trust any of them.’

Bev Heney

‘It’s a fucking disgrace Debbie Barratt-Cole. Its a criminal offence to incite violence. But how many will face a court for this. Not a fucking one of them SHAMEFUL.”

Feelings, very clearly, run high amongst a small number of those who oppose the Party controlling the local Council in Oldham. Whether that is reflected at the ballot box on 6th May remains to be seen.

But, for Raja, outrage equals more money; especially from this core support of a rabidly anti-Labour caucus and known far-right supporters. They drink in his divisive and hate-filled outpourings. He is their totem in the war against the despised ruling Party in the Borough. A group from which former member Miah was expelled last August.

The fact that he is a persistent, mendacious liar is now well rehearsed elsewhere on this website (read more here) and threads through this deconstruction of his deeply troubling race-baiting post.

The starting point is the Miah connections with Proud of Oldham and Saddleworth (the POOS). He is believed to be one of the founders, said to select its election candidates (read more here) and it is a matter of record that he is one of the moderators on the POOS Facebook page.

Paul Taylor, who runs another fledgling political party in the town, Northern Heart UK (formerly Oldham Heart), asserts: ‘Raja Miah is the directing mind behind POOS. They meet monthly at Springhead Liberal Club. He has major say on policy, tactics and candidate selection’. Taylor comments on most of the Recusant Nine posts, expressing very strong anti-Labour Party views. A previous falling-out with Raja appears to have now been repaired.

Two of Miah’s closest friends, Paul Errock and Debbie Barratt-Cole, stood unsuccessfully as candidates in the 2019 General Election. Both of whom also contribute financially to either the POOS, Raja Miah, or the Recusant Nine platform.

At least three Facebook ‘supporters’ who previously sent Miah money every month were picked as candidates in the forthcoming local elections in Oldham. They include Gary Tarbuck, who is at the centre of the latest controversy. The other two are Marc Hince and Mark Birchall. It is unclear how many other POOS candidates will be on the ballot papers. Or, whether they also contribute to the Miah coffers. Six POOS candidates, from an original pool believed to be twelve, are alleged to have dropped out because of what supporters say was ‘hate and harassment’. Completely absent of evidence, in the usual way.

Tarbuck is prominently referenced in the opening paragraph of the Recusant Nine post and is, of course, central to the rest of the Miah ramblings. The assumption, in those circumstances, is that he is a party and, very probably a contributor, to what is written.

Several questions arise, not least: With the local elections just over four weeks away, and having switched wards only last week, from Saddleworth South to Saddleworth North, how does Gary find the time to be supporting another candidate miles away from his countryside base?

On the doorstep, how did Tarbuck explain the migration away from his family’s deep roots in the Labour Party, with his grandfather, former Mayor Frank Heap, being such a hugely respected figure both in the town of Oldham and across the political divide.

How was the alleged corruption and child sex abuse cover-up articulated or evidenced to ward constituents. Who is corrupt? Who is involved in the cover-up? Where is the evidence? Does he name names, or is it just a POOS party line being spun on the back of largely baseless, defamatory posts by Raja Miah?

But the most crucial question, regarding corruption, concerns one of the men Gary Tarbuck is avidly supporting and campaigning alongside in Coldhurst, Montaz Ali Azad. Found guilty, in 2016, of a string of offences relating to tax irregularities and unregistered workers, the Labour Party withdrew the whip whilst he was a sitting councillor in Oldham and he then left the fold. Later to be defeated as an independent candidate in the 2019 local elections by Labour’s Ruji Sapna Surjan.

That election campaign was not without controversy: Azad was caught out claiming he was the ‘Labour independent candidate’ on the first version of his election leaflet (later corrected after complaints to the Returning Officer). He also claimed to live locally, but his home address, listed publicly by the Disqualification Authority, is in Burnley Lane, Chadderton.

His troubles began when Home Office immigration officers discovered the unlawful employment during an inspection visit in August, 2013. There were three illegal workers on his premises at the time.

Eurolinen UK Ltd, now dissolved, operated an industrial laundry on Dickenson Road in Ashton-under-Lyne. The firm went into liquidation in September 2014, owing £105,367 to creditors. It had ceased trading one month earlier.

Following an investigation, launched by the Insolvency Service, Azad was disqualified for six years from being a director of any company or having any management role within one.

He was ordered to pay a £15,000 civil penalty, which remained unpaid at the date of the company’s liquidation.

Ex-Cllr Azad has been approached to establish the position regarding any voluntary arrangement in respect of unpaid creditors and the present status of the fine.

The disgraced politician, in whom the POOS now place so much faith, promoting so heavily, and who was Eurolinen UK’s sole director, also failed to ensure the company lawfully operated a ‘Pay As You Earn’ scheme by not declaring the illegal employees – and accounting to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) for deductions that should have been made from their earnings for income tax and National Insurance. Over £17,000 was owed to HMRC when the company went bust.

Azad was involved, at the time, in a number of local restaurant businesses, but resigned as a director of three other limited companies just before his disqualification became effective. He had also opened another industrial laundry business, Marked Industries Ltd, which set up in Oldham just before Eurolinen UK Ltd was raided. Companies House records show Shofina Bibi, who lived with Azad at the time, owned 75 per cent of its shares. That company was dissolved in August last year. Shomuz Miah was also a director. Khalique Miah is a director of one of Azad’s former companies, Niadorn Ltd, which is still trading.

One of the most vociferous commentators on the Recusant Nine post, Mohib Uddin, is a long-serving, senior tax inspector. He is also a close friend and political ally of Raja Miah, who describes Uddin as a ‘leading political analyst’. Mohib, in spite of his vocation and past history in a short-lived and notably unremarkable spell as an Oldham councillor, plainly does not see a great deal wrong with the corrupt personal, political and corporate history of Montaz Ali Azad. He, more than anyone, would know the background to this independent candidate. As can be seen from his public comment, despite the obvious conflict with his day job, he is prepared to ‘walk with’ Azad (and Tarbuck) in Coldhust to ‘show solidarity’. A matter now raised, quite properly, with HMRC’s press office as a public interest concern.

By way of contrast, Robert Clarke, a group leader with the Insolvency Service said: “The Insolvency Service rigorously pursues directors who break employment and immigration laws. Taking on staff illegally means those staff do not enjoy basic employment rights and is a clear breach of a director’s duties.

He added, “The public has a right to expect that those who break the law will face the consequences. Running a limited company means you have statutory obligations as well as protections, and this should serve as a warning to other directors tempted to take on illegal staff.”

In the second paragraph of the Recusant Nine post, Miah refers to an ‘extremely disturbing rumour’ that, according to him, is ‘an incitement of violence against Gary Tarbuck’ (fourth paragraph). He does not state either the source of the rumour, how knowledge of it came to him or how he can know that it is ‘spreading like wildfire’ in the local community when he lives miles away and spends his days bashing a keyboard angrily or presenting himself in front of one of his cameras.

As with so much, if not all, of Raja’s outpourings on social media, it is innuendo, the flying of a kite, the stirring of hate and division, and the intention to smear that invariably trump facts and evidence. Which explains the inclusion of the line, ‘reports of this (HE KILLS MUSLIMS) are being shared by senior Oldham Council leaders and politicians’. It is well rehearsed that none of those leaders and politicians will have anything to do with Miah, or his acolytes; which begs the next question: How is he privy to the sharing of information so sensitive that, if it ever existed and was exposed, would instantly end the career of those same politicians and, very likely, bring down the Labour Party in Oldham?

In the third paragraph it all becomes a muddle: Miah claims it is ‘the Bangladeshi community who are scared’. Of what, he doesn’t say. But not the upstanding, well-connected Gary Tarbuck, surely?

But this contradiction is accompanied by the standard, self-aggrandising claim that so very many people in Oldham take all their problems to him; a noted trouble causer who has done so much damage to the town, and seriously enriched himself along the way, rather than to their elected representatives, local religious leaders, community champions or, if so afraid for their peace and safety, the local police whom, very visibly, work hard on cohesion and inclusivity.

The remainder of the post is largely an attack on the latter, claiming yet again that Greater Manchester Police are corruptly acting against him – and have an entrenched political allegiance to the Labour leaders in Oldham and the wider region. Coupled with a plea by Raja Miah for Oldham citizens, and public figures, ‘to condemn’ his political enemies on the basis of nothing higher than a scurrilous, unevidenced rumour that ‘shames the town’.

He signs off by saying that Gary Tarbuck ‘will continue to serve Oldham’. A further decoration of the truth, as the Saddleworth man has never held elected office and only moved back to the Borough in 2014, having spent most of his adult life as a serving soldier, either elsewhere in the UK, or posted abroad.

In a moment of quiet reflection, the same Gary Tarbuck might well regret having his, and the POOS name, and his photograph, attached to yet another Recusant Nine post that now appears to have backfired spectacularly. There is no mention at all, on his Facebook election candidate’s page, of the visit to Coldhurst, the fear he is allegedly living under or the Recusant Nine post making that claim. Tarbuck is, however, continuing to promote the corrupt Montaz Ali Azad, in spite of the latest revelations.

The late Frank Heap, for his part, may well be looking down aghast at what is being done in his good name.

Contact was made yesterday with two prominent members of the Muslim community in Oldham, both with strong links to Coldhurst and its local constituents. One said of the Miah allegations, emphatically, ‘I’ve never heard such nonsense‘. The other noted: ‘The latest in a long line of Raja’s conspiracy theories, without any truth in it at all‘.

Councillors Fielding and Abdul Jabbar, who represents Coldhurst, have been approached for a statement regarding the truth, or otherwise, of the assertions made in the Recusant Nine post. No acknowledgement, or reply, was provided to these questions:

1. The key question, of course, is how these ‘He Killed Muslims’ rumours came into being and the extent of their circulation: Can you assist with this?

2. Also, is the Bangladeshi community in Coldhurst living in fear? 

3. Without wishing to intrude too deeply into your [Cll Jabbar’s] ward business, how many of your constituents have contacted you with concerns over Mr Tarbuck’s brief incursion into the ward before or since the Miah ‘rumours’ were posted yesterday on Facebook?

Jim McMahon was asked to comment in the light of the claim by Kerry Skelhorn that his ‘election team’ are at the heart of the rumours. This is his response:

These allegations are highly offensive and completely untrue. I will be seeking legal advice regarding such defamatory statements, around both those who make them and those who share them.”

Raja Miah has declined all previous invitations to exercise his right to reply. He did, however, post a response, of sorts, on his Recusant Nine page shortly after publication of this article. It is another largely fact-free, defamatory, ad hominem attack that fails to address any of the serious, core issues rehearsed here. Its focus appears to be on the prospect of having his Paypal money supply interrupted, or cut off altogether, and the exposure of his luxury lifestyle.

The contribution of HMRC’s Mohib Uddin was rather more succinct, but on broadly the same theme: “The man [Neil Wilby] is a bell end”.

The conspiracy to murder; the Coldhurst ‘rumour’, now proven to be false; the corrupt councillor, the tax fraud, exploitation of illegal immigrants or election fraud; and the relentless milking of money, by his wealthy close friend, from those less well off, went unremarked by the tax inspector.

Proud of Oldham and Saddleworth’s Party Chairwoman (as she describes herself), Sarah Shilton, added: “Seriously guys, I hope he [Neil Wilby] sees this or someone sends it to him. Mental health is a serious subject and if someone is showing signs of mental health issues we should be offering help”.

For emphasis, she added this NHS Helpline weblink.

The same POOS, and the same Chair(woman), who kick up a stink about alleged ‘hate and harassment’ towards candidates standing for their Party. But, more on that soon, as a statement unearthed on their own website seriously undermines that claim. Hoisted by their own petard, yet again.

The moment of truth will arrive for them on 6th May, 2021 at the polling booths. Those adjacent to the political scene in Oldham say, emphatically that the POOS will not win a single seat on Oldham Council. Their appalling conduct, propensity for deceit amongst their supporters, and the close association with disgraced Raja Miah and corrupt Montaz Ali Azad, suggests that would be the right result for the town.

A full list of wards and nominations published by the Council’s Returning Officer can be found (here). There is also a helpful party by party breakdown of candidates and other interesting statistical information relating to both the forthcoming and 2019 local elections in Oldham.

Page last updated: Sunday 17th April, 2021 at 0855 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.

A Sign of The Times

In a country where its Prime Minister is a serial liar, not telling the truth is no longer a BIG thing, writes Neil Wilby.

Likewise, in Greater Manchester, where the Mayor, Andy Burnham, is caught out, by his critics, decorating the truth with troubling frequency, particularly over his grotesque failure to hold the region’s chief constable to account.

At the eastern edge of that same region sits Mossley, the former West Riding mill town turned upmarket commuter haven, nestling against the Pennine hills. Its most infamous resident also tells lies. Lots of them. Big fat ones. Persistently and mendaciously. Almost every time he pens a post on Facebook or transmits his ludicrous weekend Recusant Nine podcast.

To the extent that a self-styled political activist, Raja Miah, about which much is written elsewhere on this website, is seeking to make an industry of it: The more outrageous the fabrication, the greater the amount of money he hopes to extract from his ‘supporters’.

A business model that failed to impress Facebook, whom have recently banned him from monetising his depressingly makeshift content on their social media platform. Another giant network, the Google-owned YouTube, is also currently reviewing his discredited output on the the same basis (read more here). The two most recent Miah podcasts have been removed from their channel as a result of defamation complaints.

His divisive hatred, directed towards sections of Asian communities under an opaque veil of ‘exposing’ grooming and organised crime gangs, without, it seems, the necessary credible, original evidence, has particular appeal to the notorious far-right element in the neighbouring Borough of Oldham (read more here).

Lie after lie was forensically unpicked in that lengthy piece of investigative journalism, and fatally undermined Miah’s credibility across large tracts of the population in the East Lancashire mill town, and beyond. The article also enraged the far-right knuckleheads who rely on Raja as their totem.

The latest Miah hobby horse is an attack on the Oldham Times, one of the two main print media outlets in the town. The other is the Oldham Evening Chronicle. Both have seen better days, as the rot that beset the regional newspaper industry over ten years ago now looks terminal in an increasing number of cases.

The Times is  controlled by Newsquest Media Group Ltd and ultimately owned by Gannett Co, Inc based in the United States of America. The Evening Chronicle is controlled by Credible Media Ltd and run by local man, Matthew Ramsbottom.

By coincidence, the author of this piece is a former area general manager with a predecessor company of Newsquest, Reed Regional Newspapers (a subsidiary of what is now Reed-Elsevier plc). Indeed, the founding chief executive, Jim Brown, was a highly valued mentor, as well as a newspaper industry icon.

Bucking the trend of consolidation or closure, the Times recently moved from weekly to daily publication even though its front pages routinely have the look of a 1990’s free-sheet and the rest of the newspaper appears thin on original worthwhile content.

The source of the latest Miah angst is a lead story, run by the Times on its website, featuring the newly launched election campaign of Cllr Sean Fielding. He is defending a seat in Failsworth West that he has held since 2012. He was elected as Council Leader in 2018, due, in part at least, to being personable, approachable, highly articulate and PR savvy. The university education his working class parents fought so hard for was not entirely wasted, even though he was unable to follow his chosen career path of civil engineering.

Cllr Fielding is one of a number of Labour Party figures in the Oldham area that are under relentless attack from the Miah cohort (read more here).

The Miah response to the home page splash in the Times was surprising, even by his own low standards: On his Recusant Nine page on Facebook he began to repeat the allegation, or imputation, that there was an improper relationship between the Council and the newspaper. He singles out Cllr Fielding and the newspaper’s chief reporter, Nick Jackson, for the usual highly personalised, derogatory, baseless attack. Grounded in the ludicrous assertion that large sums of money change hands and these furtive transfers provide leverage for the council, through its leader, to dictate, or skew, the newspaper’s content.

Nick Jackson’s ‘sin’ is, seemingly, not providing coverage of the Recusant Nine output. Much, if not all of it, lacking an evidential basis to the standard that would withstand a newspaper lawyer’s scrutiny.

His criticism is worded in such a way, some might say deliberately, that the reader might infer that it was taxpayers money that funded, in part at least, the transition from weekly to daily newspaper. There was also a puzzling reference as to what Miah’s claimed ‘sources’ had ‘uncovered so far’ about the alleged financial machinations.

To a journalist, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is an important gateway to disclosure from public authorities and the seed from which many stories are cultivated – and so it proved in this particular case: A request was submitted to Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council and the information subsequently provided was, indeed, surprising (read here).

The finalisation of the FOIA request reveals that the amount spent by Oldham Council with the Oldham Times on advertising is much less than anticipated. Less unexpectedly, there is no financial investment at all. Other enquiries revealed that the Council actually spends more on advertising with the Manchester Evening News.

A senior council spokesman said: “All of the identified spend is for advertising in some form. In the 2020/21 financial year, the overwhelming majority of this advertising spend was related to Coronavirus; for example to raise awareness of public health messages and to encourage people to follow the hands, face, space 
guidance.

“The amount of money spent with local media companies has significantly 
reduced in recent years, in line with the overall reduction of Council 
budgets.

“The majority of the money spent with these companies is on public notices 
– such as planning applications and highways notices – which councils have 
a legal obligation to publish.

“Oldham Council used to publish these notices with the Oldham Chronicle
prior to the daily print edition ceasing in 2017. We now publish these 
notices with the Manchester Evening News, which is owned by Reach plc”.

Interestingly, in June, 2020, the Chronicle made a public appeal to the Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham. In an open letter to the Mayor, the owner of the newspaper, Matthew Ramsbottom, said local media organisations need specialist support, particularly at this difficult time, in ensuring that they not only survive, but thrive against the backdrop of faceless big-business (presumably referencing Newsquest and Reach).

For reasons that are unclear, the Chronicle appear, at least in the recent past, to have escaped the Miah vitriol.

Complaints by Raja, to IPSO (Independent Press Standards Organisation) against the Manchester Evening News, resulted in humiliation (read here). They concerned the newspaper’s extensive coverage of the grotesquely failed free schools run by him (read here). The journalist by-lined in that piece, Jennifer Williams, has been subjected to a campaign of harassment on the Recusant Nine platform, ever since.

So, it has come to pass that yet another Raja fallacy has been comprehensively shredded. With remarkably little effort, and by means open to Miah himself, if he was actually interested in backing up his accusations with facts and evidence.

UPDATE: Thirteen hours after this article was published, Miah posted on the Recusant Nine page on Facebook: “As for questionable transactions. Anyone want to spend £1 million on the local press?”. Inferring, yet again, that there is large scale financial impropriety on the part of Oldham Council.

Why let facts get in the way of smearing your political opponents? This is an unremarkable analysis, disclosed by the Council under the Freedom of Information Act, of total amounts spent with the Oldham Times, Oldham Chronicle and Manchester Evening News broken down by year back to 2011/12 (read in full here). It in no way supports any conspiracy theory about undue council, or councillor, influence over the local press. To those who are adjacent to such matters, and the author of this piece is a former area managing director for Johnston Press, the amounts are surprisingly modest.

Page last updated: Saturday 10th April, 2021 at 1055 hours

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Picture credit: Oldham Times

© 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.

Beginning of the end?

It’s been a long haul. An investigation that started over a year ago may soon be coming to an end, writes Neil Wilby.

Allegations that a police force, a local council and a group of MP’s were engaged in a long running wide-scale cover up of grooming and child sex abuse, in an East Lancashire mill town, certainly grabbed attention at the time they were first made in 2019.

Not least by Greater Manchester Police who quietly launched Operation Hexagon in November, 2019 to investigate the claims. Its existence was not publicly revealed until one year later. No further update, or investigation outcome, has been published since then.

A more recent statement from Gold Commander, Nick Bailey, has been sought via the force press office.

The principal accuser is a man who repeatedly claims to speak for “my town” and “our town” but hasn’t lived in Oldham for 17 years. Raja Miah MBE (for the moment, at least) has also attracted an unsavoury group around him who constantly repeat the cover-up allegations and now, very belatedly and as a flag of convenience, position themselves as ‘anti-child grooming campaigners’. Despite the town having a known and very serious child sex abuse problem since at least 2006 (read more here).

Subscribers to his troubled Recusant Nine platform on Facebook, totalling 114 people, a fair number of whom have either criminal records, racist or far-right leanings, all appear to have an axe to grind against one or more of the Labour Party, local council, local MP’s, the police force and the Region’s Mayor. In an imperfect world, some with good reason, no doubt.

Many of them are also attached to a political party known colloquially as the POOS (Proud Of Oldham and Saddleworth). Miah, one of the administrators of the Party’s Facebook page, is said to be the driving force behind the party and selects its candidates for elections. The subscribers send him money every month. He is also feverishly supported by the successful, wealthy and popular local businessman, Paul Errock. Known better to his friends as ‘Boots‘.

The POOS, according to their website, are fielding eight candidates in the forthcoming local elections: Paul Goldring, Mark Birchall, Ronnie Bailey, Amoy Lindo (who stood as an Independent candidate in 2019 General Election), Marc Hince, Paul Shilton, Gary Tarbuck, Phil Sewell (UPDATE: Mr Sewell announced his departure from the POOS, and his Saddleworth South candidacy, shortly after this article was published. Messrs Bailey and Birchall also appear to be no longer standing for election as POOS candidates, as their profile pages on the website are blank). Four other candidates, whose names, apart from Debbie Barratt-Cole, are unknown, dropped out of the election campaign because of what supporters describe, without specification, as ‘hate and harassment’.

The local elections will, doubtless, be a watershed for the feverishly anti-Labour group. Messrs Birchall, Hince and Tarbuck all support Raja Miah with donations.

Oldham born Amoy is the only female, and the only minority ethnic candidate, out of the remaining POOS. She has previously, and unsuccessfully, stood for election in the same St James council ward she is contesting in May.

The main targets for a deeply unpleasant and sustained campaign of abuse and harassment by the Miah cohort are, unsurprisingly, three of the Labour Party’s most prominent figures in the area; Jim McMahon MP, Council Leader Sean Fielding (read more here), one of his two deputies Cllr Arooj Shah (read more here).

The genesis of that vendetta (Miah’s own description of his crusade) was the exposure by the former council leader, and now MP for Oldham West and Royton, of Miah’s lengthy catalogue of misdemeanours associated with two free schools that he previously ran in the area. Millions of pounds remain unaccounted for and, more seriously, there were grotesque safeguarding failures on his watch (read more here).

Miah denies any wrongdoing, although the evidence against him appears to be overwhelming. Instead, he paints himself as a victim of ‘a smear campaign’ that involves many prominent Labour politicians and journalists in the region. As he does regarding every other challenge to similarly ludicrous lies and groundless allegations that he routinely broadcasts (read more here).

This class of behaviour has resulted in action by the giant social media platform, Facebook, who have now blocked him from monetising his content. There are also a number of other complaints lodged against him with Facebook concerning alleged defamatory, mysogynistic and anti-semitic posts. Again, Miah robustly denies wrongdoing, although the facts and evidence appear to be against him.

His conduct has not moderated in any way since and, indeed, it might well be argued that it gets more outrageous to satisfy the needs of those supporters who ‘send money for a coffee’ every month. Taken at its face, a crude circumvention of the Facebook ban.

On Saturday 20th March, 2021, Facebook finally suspended Miah from posting on Recusant Nine. There had been a previous interruption and a warning. He is appealing the ban, he says.

The local police force also seem to be belatedly swinging into action over the abuse, which recently included an unwarranted and very public attack on the capabilities and integrity of Detective Inspector Kenny Blain, as Miah says he was contacted by Greater Manchester Police several times in the week leading up to the ban – and refused to answer the door to one of their officers on the same day the sanction was imposed by Facebook.

The source for this information is Raja himself.

Complaints are also understood to have been made to Google-owned YouTube about the alleged abusive and offensive Miah content on that hugely popular website. They do, anecdotally. have a lower tolerance threshold than Facebook when that class of content is in issue. He continues to beg for money on the video channel saying ‘it is needed for him to carry on’. In this context, the ‘Buy me a coffee’ operators, and their PayPal partners, are also said to have been contacted on the basis that that money handling service is allegedly facilitating defamatory, divisive and hateful content.

A well-placed police source says the force leadership has ordered a further review of complaints about his (and their) persistently mindless and harassing conduct. Exposure to a wide audience on Twitter about the apparent failure to act, for many months, on this shocking situation has also proved highly embarrassing for GMP .

The lengthy delay in finalising the investigation into alleged multi-million fraud at the free schools run by Raja Miah is not assisting the reputation of a police force already in ‘special measures’. It was passed to GMP by the Serious Fraud Office last year.

To top off the bad news, the Cabinet Office’s Forfeiture Committee that reconsiders the fitness of those who hold Honours are also undertaking a review (read more here). Given the nature and scale of the complaints against him, and the disgrace he has brought to the town of Oldham, the MBE awarded in 2004 may soon be a thing of the past.

As will the infamous Raja Miah strapline: “Do not fear them, do not fear any of them

UPDATE: Several hours after this article was published, the Recusant Nine platform was restored by Facebook. For how long, no-one knows? Extraordinarily, Miah is now saying there wasn’t a ban but that during his period of absence he was ‘busy buying a new set of utensils’.

A further break in transmission from Friday 26th March, 2021 suggests there are more problems for Recusant Nine. Potentially, related to yet another unvarnished, unwarranted attack on the efficiency and integrity of DI Blain, two days earlier (read the post here).

Raja Miah, and his supporters, rely on access to the Facebook platform at weekends to promote his output on YouTube. Without that aid, his podcast this week attracted just 18 views (correct at the time of publication of this article).

The Recusant Nine platform was restored on Saturday 3rd April, 2021 and he returned with a bang, as it were. Miah’s latest accusations graphically portray a conspiracy to murder him, involving Jim McMahon, Cllr Fielding and the author of this piece, Neil Wilby. Facilitated by a ‘corrupt and ineffective’ Greater Manchester Police.

On that basis, it is not at all difficult to envisage that another social media ban will soon be in the offing with even more reputational damage inflicted on the Proud of Oldham and Saddleworth (POOS) party.

Page last updated: Monday 5th April, 2021 at 1155 hours

Photo Credits: Schools Week, Facebook.

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

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© 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.

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

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© 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.

Review of February, 2021 on neilwilby.com

A fairly busy month saw six articles published on this website. They have contributed to a pleasing and continuing upward trend in visitor numbers and page impressions.

The first, published on 10th February, saw a return to the vexed situation in Oldham, where a group of political agitators cling desperately to a series of mostly shocking and desperate untruths, designed almost solely to smear three senior political figures in the town and the party they represent. The article (read in full here) exclusively revealed that Cllr Sean Fielding, the Leader of Oldham Council, had been cleared by Greater Manchester Police of a series of bizarre allegations made by a retired police officer, a tax inspector and a PhD researcher at the University of Manchester.

The offences cited were very serious and included harassment, malicious communication and misfeasance offences; the evidence behind them almost non-existent – and an insider says the police inspector reviewing the case, unsurprisingly, didn’t deem them worthy of investigation.

There were also a series of other exclusive revelations that left agitator-in-chief, Raja Miah, and his core far-right supporters, reeling.

The next three articles, concerning the deaths of two Huddersfield men following contact with the police, were linked. The first tragedy happened in September, 2016 after Andrew Stephen Hall was detained and restrained at the local police station before being taken to the Royal Infirmary, where he died shortly afterwards (read more here).

Less than four months later, Yassar Yaqub was, controversially, shot dead on a slip road at junction 24 of the M62 Trans-Pennine motorway. Just 2km from the Infirmary and less than 4 months after Andrew’s death. The article covered the announcement by the police watchdog that none of the police officers involved in the killing would face misconduct charges (read more here).

Coincidentally (or otherwise), the announcement by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (formerly the IPCC) came on the very same day as the latest pre-inquest hearing touching the death of Mr Hall. The report from that hearing (read in full here) revealed, exclusively, that arguments over police witness anonymity are set to reach the Supreme Court.

On Friday 26th February, 2021, a police watchdog made its latest in a lengthening series of shocking revelations as to the failings of forces in England and Wales. The report by Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary finds, emphatically, that racism, either conscious or unconscious, around stop and search remains unaddressed. My informed take on it can be read here.

The month’s publishing ended on a lighter note with the news that the popular policing drama, Line of Duty, is set to return to TV screens soon (read here). A programme that always resonates strongly with me as I spend a considerable portion of my time either dealing with or reviewing the work of the Professional Standards departments (or branches or directorates) of five police forces.

Two other older pieces are worthy of mention. Both recorded high viewing figures last month: ‘Blind in One Eye’ (read here) challenges the sub-optimal reporting by iconic satirical magazine, Private Eye, of the innocence claim of convicted murderer, Robin Garbutt. ‘Dr Truthseeker loses her moral compass’ owes its renewed interest almost entirely to the recent airing of a Channel 5 documentary featuring Dr Sandra Lean as a criminology ‘expert’. She is, or was, ‘Dr Truthseeker’ (read more here).

Page last updated on Thursday 4th March, 2021 at 1045hrs

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Picture credit: De Montfort University

© 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.

Barking up the wrong tree

In November last year, writes Neil Wilby, an article was published on this website that charted the course of what is now a year long journalistic investigation into alleged serious wrongdoing by police, MPs and local councillors in Oldham, a large Pennine town on the eastern edge of the Greater Manchester region (read in full here).

It was the seventh article in a lengthening series, the intended number was two or, maybe, three, and led to its author being reported to the police last October as a result of a previous article (read here) and, again, earlier this month. Having not heard from the Greater Manchester force in the ensuing four months, apart from, routinely, their press office and information rights team, it is unclear what the specification and substance of those complaints actually are. The person making some of them, Kerry Skelhorn, who works for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, and is based in East Anglia, has described me, both on air and on social media, as “a psychopath”. That, apart from being highly defamatory, presents a substantial evidential threshold when the suspect is a man of advancing years with an unblemished criminal record.

As one might infer, it has been a challenging assignment as “psychopath” would not be the most unflattering term used to smear a journalist (“paedophile protector” is amongst the many others), whose published output, following detailed, forensic analysis, many interviews with key figures and scene visits (pre-lockdown, of course), plainly doesn’t marry with the original allegations of a long-running, wide-scale ‘cover-up’ of child sexual exploitation in Oldham (read more here). The reality is that a highly emotive subject has been crudely weaponised by a group of bitter discontents, headed by a man from another Borough, desperate to distract from his own alleged serious wrongdoings.

The latest article also resulted in a complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), alongside the local council, and its Leader, Cllr Sean Fielding (pictured below left with Cll Arooj Shah and Jim McMahon MP), whom, it was alleged, had leaked information to assist in the construction of the piece. The complaint did not have evidence to support such an assertion. In reality, it involved painstaking enquiries and a contact with a number of sources, including material from some of the complainants themselves.

It had chronicled the long-running, highly personalised attacks made on Cllr Fielding by a Tameside political activist, Raja Miah, and a group of mostly far-right supporters whom have become collectively known as ‘Raja’s Rabble’ or, simply, as they happily refer to themselves, ‘The Rabble’. All seriously, and it seems, obsessively, occupied by smearing the Labour Party and a number of its prominent members in the area. One of the The Rabble’s most prolific witterers is Jane Barker, a University of Manchester student researcher. She made the data breach complaint to the ICO, via Oldham Council, and has made a number of others of varying specification to the council, the Labour Party and then to the police.

Miah was kicked out of the same Party in August, 2019. His output on social media appears particularly attractive to a far-right audience and one of his main backers is Paul Errock, a local businessman and, from available screenshots, apparently a supporter of Tommy Robinson, former leader of the English Defence League (EDL). Another ubiquitous Miah camp follower, and a ‘subscriber’ who sends Miah money every month, is Garry Dunkerley, nearing the end of a six year jail sentence after conviction for burglary, involving a number of vulnerable old people amongst his victims. Dunkerley also has links to the EDL (read more here). He uses at least two pseudonyms on social media, including the notorious “Duggy Dunk” handle.

It has emerged that “Dunk” actually worked alongside Cllr Fielding for a period at the Tesco Superstore in Failsworth (where, in better times, the Full English Breakfast in the first floor cafeteria is heartily recommended). He has shown no remorse over his offending and, perversely, denies causing harm. The disgraceful output on social media should, very arguably, have led to his recall to prison whilst on licence.

Ms Barker (pictured below), much more feminist than far-right, who also sends money to Raja Miah every month, having failed with her perceived grievances at both the council and Labour Party, then made complaints to the police about its local leader that appeared to include a number of very serious matters: Harassment, malicious communication and hate crime. Others, including Mark Wilkinson, a retired police officer turned probation officer, and Mohib Uddin, a tax inspector by day and self-styled ‘political analyst’ at other times, made similar allegations.

They appeared to have little factual or evidential basis, being centred on communications between Sean Fielding and the employers of Barker, Uddin and Wilkinson, but embellished a concurrent publicity stunt, centred around a petition organised by Miah, calling upon the Home Secretary to order the arrest of Sean Fielding. As one might expect of an action so ill-conceived, it gained little traction despite a frenetic campaign on social media by Raja and The Rabble to promote it. But its real purpose was, one might argue, to continue the smearing and campaign of harassment against Cllr Fielding – and to that extent it very likely succeeded.

Unlike Miah, born and spending his early life in Bradford and living in some splendour the upmarket village of Mossley, near Ashton-under-Lyne, since 2004, Sean is working class Oldham born and bred – and never lived, or worked, anywhere else. He was elected to serve the town in 2012 and won a party ballot for council leader in 2018, becoming the youngest in the country to do so.

In contrast, Raja Miah has never stood for public office and is most widely known for his association with two spectacularly failed free schools in Greater Manchester, presently a matter of lengthy and complex police investigation into multi-million pounds fraud allegations. Severely hampered by the almost complete abdication from the required accountancy standards by the school’s operators.

There are also substantial concerns over very serious safeguarding failures at the Miah-run schools (read more here). The MP (and former leader of Oldham Council), Jim McMcMahon has come under relentless, and most unpleasant, attack from Miah and his acolytes ever since. But the Member for Oldham West and Royton, like Cllr Fielding a lifelong local man of solid, working class stock, is made of stern stuff and has repeatedly cut down the Man from Mossley on social media:

“In taking this case on, no-one could have foreseen the vengeance that would follow from Raja Miah and his associates. I know many decent people have been attacked, had their characters dragged through the mud, and felt deeply threatened by his actions. I know too well the impact this can have and the toll it can take but even knowing that I would still pursue this case, knowing what was to follow.

“Politics is about people, and the pupil, parents and staff (of the free schools) who have asked me to be their voice matter to me. I have no intention of letting them down.

“Of course, what follows is now is for the authorities to investigate. I sincerely hope without fear or favour”.

Very powerful, heartfelt commentary, whatever your political persuasion (for the avoidance of doubt this journalist has no affiliation with any political party): Its measured, thoughtful terms making it even more so in the face of the worst, completely unfounded, allegation that he covers up for child sex abuse in the town he has served for just under 20 years, and procures many others in public life to do so. The evidence is very clear: There was no cover-up. Quite the opposite, in fact (read more here).

A recent complaint to Facebook, by Jim McMahon, about the alleged anti-semitic content on the Recusant Nine page, operated by Raja Miah, is set out in a highly detailed, well argued document in which I have been sighted.

In what is a bad to worse week for the Miah camp, it can now be revealed, exclusively, that all the various complaints made against Sean Fielding, to the police, have been marked with ‘No Further Action’. A matter of some relief, no doubt, to him and his family, friends and colleagues, however misconceived and ill-motivated they might have been. He says:

“I was never in any doubt that the allegations against me had no substance and were simply politically motivated, tit for tat complaints. However, the abuse of the criminal justice process, and waste of police time and resources that these investigations were, just so that my political opponents could post online that I was ‘under investigation’ and facing ‘imminent arrest’ is quite shocking. Indeed, it is a criminal offence in itself.

“I will continue to represent my constituents in Failsworth and attend to my wider responsibilities as Leader of the Council with the same enthusiasm and commitment as I always have. I will not be knocked off course by those who have nothing positive to contribute to our Borough, or the wider debate about its future, and whose agenda is simply to disrupt the operation of public services and make outrageous claims online in their quest for validation in the form of Facebook likes.”

The complaints made by Jane Barker to the Information Commissioner also met the same fate, unsurprisingly. As, of course, did those she made to the Council and Labour Party, previously. The Constituency Labour Party adjudicator describing one of her complaints as “mad”.

Which means that the sum of all the serial, vexatious complaints made by her, over the past six months or so, enthusiastically egged on by The Rabble is ZERO, nothing, zilch. Except, perhaps, an arrest for wasting police time? Not least as she has made several threats to at least one other local political commentator, Euan Stewart, to report him to the police (and/or her solicitors) over nothing higher than a difference of opinion on social media regarding information she had put into the public domain. The same police force asserted by Raja Miah as being partners in the alleged CSE cover-up.

Mark Wilkinson, whom along with his wife Kathleen, socialises with another local far-right totem, former UKIP councillor and known bully, Warren Bates (pictured below left with Mr and Mrs Wilkinson), is another serial and oppressive complainer who has, so far, drawn a blank. The Wilkinsons are the founders of the Failsworth Independent Party whose sole policy, and reason for being, appears to be ‘We don’t like Sean Fielding‘. Missing from the photograph is the aforementioned “Duggy Dunk”, another Failsworth man who interacts regularly on social media with these three.

Ex-Lib Dem councillor, Mohib Uddin, is in the same boat. Fond of posting ‘tick-tock‘ when making snide reference to Cllr Fielding on social media, he is now the one running out of time. A source close to him says that action taken by the LibDems to expel him from the Party was stayed, at his request, until the police investigation into the council leader concluded. So, Tameside’s leading ‘political analyst’, according to Raja Miah at least, is a failed councillor shunned by his own party and who has, willingly it seems, collected taxes for the Conservative government for the past 10 years.

Uddin, the Wilkinsons and Ms Barker are all on a list of Recusant Nine supporters submitted to Greater Manchester Police as an intelligence file. It identifies 70 out of the 114 people who send money to Raja Miah every month. Apart from those four named above, the rest of the list includes convicted criminals, EDL members (past or present), far right activists, Tommy Robinson supporters and social media trolls. All of which provides ample justification for raising queries with their employers as to the wisdom of such associations. Particularly, those funded from the public purse or employed by the Crown.

Piling on the misery for Miah and The Rabble, his grotesque child grooming accusations against long-serving councillor and former Mayor, Riaz Ahmad have resulted, in the past week, in a climb down and a humiliating apology. All the deeply offensive posts have now been deleted. But in typical, sly Raja style, the apology was posted just before midnight last Friday.

Completing the Raja Miah nightmare, Deputy Leader of Oldham Council, Arooj Shah, mocked by The Rabble as “The COVID Queen” is well on the way to managing the town out of crisis as portfolio holder for response to the virus epidemic. In a quite remarkable turnaround, Oldham has gone from having the worst infection rate in Greater Manchester to the lowest. In typical fashion, she deflects praise on to her team and just gets on with the job. Cllr Shah was, in fact, the subject of the first Oldham article I wrote last year. It seems a lifetime away, right now. A scathing take down of the evil harassment campaign mounted by Miah and his minions (read in full here) propagated it seems, mostly, because one of her numerous roles in public life is parliamentary assistant to Jim McMahon. The MP remains The Rabble’s number one ‘target’ for abuse.

Regrettably, the dedicated, very hard-working elected female official, another born and bred Oldhamer, is still the subject of mindless accusations and distorted truths. Arooj says: “The unprovoked attacks have been, and continue to be, incredibly difficult for me and those around me, albeit dealing with misogynists isn’t exactly new territory”.

This emphasis on attacking females, highlighted by Cllr Shah, manifested itself yet again recently with a left-field attack on Deputy Mayor, Cllr Jenny Harrison, a very popular retired school teacher and senior manager (pictured below centre with Mayor Ginny Alexander on her right, Arooj Shah to her left). But Jenny wasn’t taking that lying down and gave The Man from Mossley a proper pasting on social media. Her brave stance has emboldened others, previously fearful of standing up to Raja Miah and the inevitable smearing that would follow.

Other females repeatedly derogated by Miah, over past year or so, include Debbie Abrahams MP, journalists Jennifer Williams and Charlotte Green, together with nationally known justice campaigner, and now lawyer, Gail Hadfield Grainger.

An objective reader coming to the end of this piece might well scratch their head in bemusement and say how on earth has Raja Miah, and his motley band of hangers-on, been allowed to get away with this obnoxious, hateful behaviour for so long? As one who sits in the press seats at Magistrates’ and Crown Courts (or logs in via CVP these days) it certainly has me completely baffled: Efforts to persuade the three very senior officers with locus in the Borough, T/DCC Mabs Hussain, ACC Nick Bailey and C/Supt Chris Allsop have so far produced no visible response. But the pressure to do no more than perform the job, for which they are paid handsomely, will continue to be applied in every lawful way possible. They must be in no doubt about that. Victims of the class of crimes and/or civil torts perpetrated by Raja Miah, and others, notably his lieutenant-in-chief, the potty-mouthed Anita Lowe, should not be left alone to seek civil remedies or repeated complaints to social media operators.

I, for one, am old enough to remember when keeping the Queen’s Peace was a job for the police service and one they were keen and proud to undertake.

The highly opinionated but scarcely literate Mrs Lowe, who lived in Failsworth before moving to Littlemoor four years ago, is believed to be behind a number of other anonymous “trolling” Twitter and Facebook accounts. This is her main social media vehicle at present. A file is being prepared for Greater Manchester Police accompanying complaints by way of the Protection from Harassment and Communications Acts:

In one tweet reply to Euan Stewart, she claims that ‘Vote-Watch’ journalist Jay Beecher ‘tells us everything’ and ‘we [Raja’s Rabble] are buddies [with Beecher] you daft brush’.

A former key UKIP activist in the right wing stronghold of Peterborough, before being suspended from the party for making “deliberate and demonstratively false allegations against other members of the party” (read more here), Beecher is, arguably, best known for his editorship of the now banned far-right platform, Politicalite.

Byline Times report that “Politicalite, launched in 2017, mixes sensationalist headlines and alt-right talking points, chiefly around Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (also known as ‘Tommy Robinson’), Muslims and Brexit, attracting around 50,000 visitors a day. It is one of a loose network of nakedly partisan British political websites that have sprung up in the past five years, which include Vote-WatchFoxhole and Point News, as well as Unity News Network“.

Remarkably, and against this backdrop, the “Eliza-Jayne” abusive trolling account is also followed on Twitter by former ITV Granada Reports journalist, Matt O’Donoghue whom, most surprisingly, but regrettably, has ‘previous’ for attaching himself to The Rabble’s cause. Conversely and perversely, he has, in the past, said that he ‘deeply admires’ the investigative journalism on this website.

In an extraordinary reply to this article,  O’Donoghue claims he was ‘inadvertently following a troll’. ‘Sometimes’, he says, ‘I just follow back without doing the due diligence that I should’. Matt does not explain why he is also attached to a number of other abusive, far-right, racist social media accounts, most notably the Neo-nazi enabling ‘Oldham Eye’. He claims, without specification or evidence, that his exposure as being adjacent to the cause of Raja Miah, the false Oldham CSE cover-up narrative (read more here), and the consequent attacks on MPs and local councillors, is ‘a twisted mission to undermine me’. The reply includes no apology, no contrition, no mention of the victims of the relentless trolling and no undertaking to detach himself from the group and put the record straight.

All the more remarkable, given his close friendship with the aforementioned Jen Williams, a regular target for smearing by Miah and his cohort.

Jane Barker, an avid Raja Miah supporter and whom was central in a Jay Beecher authored Vote-Watch article, published in November, 2020, featuring her complaints to the police (and those made by Messrs Uddin and Wilkinson), denies any association with the far-right. All three positioned themselves as ‘anti-grooming gang campaigners’.

There appears to be no factual basis to support such a tagline or any known expertise in such a complex and sensitive area. One might also very fairly ask why their ‘campaign’ only started very recently when child grooming has blighted the town of Oldham since at least 2006 – and the topic has been extensively publicised, and tackled, by local MP’s, the police, the council, specialist investigators and all the local and regional media in the succeeding 15 years?

Ms Barker’s forthcoming blog on the topic, signposted during a recent Raja Miah podcast, may cast some light on those questions.

Page last updated: Tuesday 2nd March, 2021 at 1255 hours

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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

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

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© 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.

‘Get the white vote angry’

In October, 2020 I published an article on this website headlined ‘Search for the truth‘. An overview of a journalistic investigation into allegations of a multi-agency cover-up of child sex abuse in Oldham, Greater Manchester (read in full here).

The genesis of those highly emotive accusations, and indeed now its centrepiece, oft-repeated on social media, is an email sent by a BBC journalist to the Council’s leader at the time, Jim McMahon.

A subset is a reply that Oldham Council sent to a letter from the Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) dated November, 2012. Its Chair, and author of the HASC letter, Keith Vaz MP, had met, immediately prior to its sending, a child sex abuse survivor from Oldham, Samantha Walker-Roberts (who has waived her right to lifetime anonymity) and her campaigning husband, the now deceased Steven Walker-Roberts. The latter also made written submissions to the Committee as part of a wider Parliamentary inquiry into child sex abuse.

Together, the email and the letter are alleged to prove that McMahon, now the MP for Oldham West, is complicit in the cover up and, due to his position at the time, central to it.

The accuser is Raja Miah, a local political activist (pictured above), whose output on social media and his other internet platforms frequently attracts the attention of the police and litigation lawyers.

These are, by any measure, grotesque allegations to make against anyone, let alone a family man with two young children who lives in the town he has served since 2003 and, of course, works in his constituency office there. He was brought up a short step away in Middleton, just beyond the Oldham Borough boundary.

Miah is best known as the founder and former Chief Executive Officer of two spectacularly failed schools, which led to him being blacklisted by the Department of Education and an investigation by the National Economic Crime Centre (NECC) into alleged misappropriation of millions of pounds of public funds. This followed a referral by the Serious Fraud Office.

The deep dive into the schools finances, strongly championed by the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Angela Rayner MP, has now been passed back to Greater Manchester Police by the NECC. To add to at least six other criminal investigations following complaints brought against Miah, and his closest supporters, by prominent local politicians.

Police sources say that both the Deputy Mayor, Bev Hughes, whose portfolio includes policing, and the chief constable, Ian Hopkins, are now both watching matters in Oldham much more closely. Better late than never, one might say.

Raja Miah strongly denies any wrongdoing. He was, however, kicked out of the Labour Party two months ago, a matter to which he has not alluded at all, amongst his quite prodigious social media ramblings.

It is no coincidence that Jim McMahon instigated and led the investigation into safeguarding, financial and governance irregularities at those schools and that the Miah ‘vendetta’ (Raja’s own word) began soon after the publicity outfall from that blacklisting and his consequent fall from public grace.

The MP told a local newspaper at the time:

“I have no doubt that the campaign of harassment and abuse [by Miah] is intended to intimidate me into withdrawing from the long-standing and ongoing investigation into allegations surrounding Collective Spirit Free School and the Manchester Creative Studio School – a matter which has been widely reported, debated in Parliament and subject to review by the Department for Education.

“I am thankful for the messages of support [I have received], but equally disappointed that such a sensitive and distressing issue [child sex abuse] has been used for political gain by others, and that some feel it appropriate to share wider.”

A great deal of time has been spent looking at the merits of the two core allegations – and the documents that Miah relies upon to underpin them. As with so much of the Miah output, there is little or no substance to them. That is also, on any independent view, clearly the case here.

The Keith Vaz letter was, I’m told, addressed to Charlie Parker, who was Oldham Council’s highly-rated chief executive at the time. In terms of protocol, that was entirely correct: A council chief executive is also one of its two statutory officers, paid a very generous salary to deal with, and co-ordinate, the response to such serious enquiries.

It was Parker who also wrote the reply to Vaz just over four weeks later. The contents are highly sensitive and cannot be repeated here. It can be stated with certainty, however, through the lens of this journalist at least, that the response was measured and appears to answer, in some detail, the two questions put to the Council by the HASC Chair. It is obvious that there was also input, as one might fairly expect, from a number of other officers concerned with child care and safeguarding in Oldham.

Miah, in an article he published without the specific authority of its subject, the child abuse victim referenced above, states that the letter was addressed to McMahon and copied to Parker. It wasn’t. It is further claimed that the Council refused to answer the questions asked by the HASC. That, again, is, quite simply, untrue. A further Raja lie is that the letter references Paul Waites, now a convicted sex offender. It didn’t.

The allegations linking McMahon to the letter and a ‘cover-up’ are contrived and fatuous. Anyone stating otherwise is simply not adjacent to the facts, or is running a quite evil agenda. Or both. His parliamentary office holds no copy of the letter and he does not have any recollection of having had input into it. The allegation that he deliberately withheld circulation of the letter is completely without merit. Simply because it was not his letter, or reply, to control.

It is a similar story regarding what is now widely known as ‘the Lee Rigby email’. Further evidence, Miah claims, that the MP was, at the material time and when Council leader, orchestrating a cover-up and preventing a wider broadcasting of concerns over alleged grooming of girls in local shisha bars.

In another lengthy piece on his Recusant Nine website he recycles documents from ‘a dossier’ given to him by former councillor and local Justice of the Peace, Hugh McDonald. Another with a deep grudge against McMahon, following his supension from the Labour Party in July 2013. McDonald was said at the time to have leaked sensitive police information to the press and to a safeguarding organisation. He later admitted his actions to council officials and apologised.

The fact that he has now released that same information, and more, to Raja Miah, in what seems a further pursuit of a common grudge against McMahon, can be fairly characterised as reprehensible.

It also goes to show that there was no genuine contrition at the time McDonald made his admisssions of guilt – and what now looks to be a very hollow apology. Indeed, he told the Oldham Times in November, 2019 that he ‘had no regrets’ about the incident and that ‘leaking information was a good thing’. The fact that McDonald sat as a magistrate for 35 years makes his actions even more unconscionable.

It is said that the ‘dossier’, to which Miah refers frequently, is the Standards Pack provided to McDonald, by the Council, during the investigation of the complaints against him.

This is the email at the heart of the present McMahon controversy, drawn from the dossier:

As a journalist, and also from the more detached, neutral perspective of an investigator, I’ve read this email many times. It doesn’t say what Raja Miah, and ‘the Rabble’ with whom he has surrounded himself, want to believe.

I am also aware, via policing contacts, that there was a Gold Group running alongside the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) set up in 2006 in the wake of Operation Messenger. That investigation reported, publicly, in 2010 that ‘child sexual exploitation is rife in Oldham, with police dealing with 26 individuals in the past 12 months’. 

Messenger was a dedicated Greater Manchester Police squad ‘battling a dark underworld of child rape and abduction in the Borough’. The force, working in tandem with other partner agencies, also said at the time that ‘in many of the local cases they had dealt with, the young people do not see themselves as victims. Drugs, money or housing could be received in exchange for sex’. 

Apart from the BBC investigation led by Jonathan Ali, it is in my knowledge that Andrew Norfolk of The Times (in 2012) and Geraldine McKelvie of The Daily Mirror (in late 2019) have both spent time in Oldham making journalistic enquiries, conducting interviews with a view to publication. In both cases no story ensued. These two journalists had, to their eternal credit, shone the first light on grooming scandals in Rotherham and Telford, respectively. Exposing police and council cover-ups in both cases.

Sally Chesworth, renowned former producer of BBC’s File on 4, and now producer of BBC’s Newsnight, has also taken a preliminary look at Oldham. She was born and brought up in the town. We have spoken regularly about the difficulties in grounding a story about the alleged CSA/CSE scandal in Oldham when there is a dearth of victims willing to come forward. It was Sally whom, along with Maggie Oliver, broke open the Rochdale grooming scandal in 2013 by way of an iconic File on 4 edition (listen here).

I spoke at length with Maggie about Oldham in a meeting in Manchester at the end of August, 2020. She elected not to get involved with the allegations of a CSA/CSE cover up in the town because of the questions surrounding the integrity of the main proponent, Raja Miah. A wise and propitious stance to take.

Returning to the Miah allegations, it was the Gold Group referred to above, headed at the time by Oldham’s Divisional Commander, Chief Superintendent Catherine Hankinson (now an assistant chief constable with West Yorkshire Police), that received credible intelligence regarding potential disruption at the funeral of Lee Rigby by far-right political activists and the attendant racial tensions. It was that to which Cllr McMahon (as he was then) alluded in his dealings with Kevin Fitzpatrick.

The claim by Raja Miah that the funeral of the fallen soldier was used to prevent the disclosure of CSE taking place at shisha bars in Oldham is not true. An email briefing was sent by GMP to councillors and officers of Oldham Council outlining an early stage investigation, and premises under surveillance. There are no circumstances where the police, or council, would have made this public during an intelligence gathering phase, and where the leaking and proposed reporting could have compromised an ongoing police investigation.

Discussions took place between the BBC and the police about the intelligence and it was agreed that, once a fuller picture emerged, it would be shared. It was during these discussions where the intelligence that the far right could use the funeral of Mr Rigby to protest was revealed. Whilst it is correct that this was shared with the media, as it would be in normal circumstances, it is not the case that the information relating to shisha bars would have been made public at such an early stage in a covert investigation, in any circumstances.

Once a clearer picture developed about the risk of venues, such as shisha bars, the usual process was followed to ensure local parents, such as colleges and others with safeguarding responsibilities, were informed. Further, the practitioner’s guidance (read here) was updated to include shisha bars on the list of high-risk venues. GMP also interacted with media enquiries and the matter was reported by the Manchester Evening News, BBC Manchester, BBC Asian Network and Radio 5. at the very least. The MEN ran this piece about the shisha bars, for example (read here). Kevin Fitzpatrick’s radio broadcast, from February 2014, which followed his investigation into the shisha bar allegations, can be heard here. He says: ‘This was a complicated matter that required detailed investigation’.

Enquiries have revealed that the leaking of the confidential email to BBC reporter Kevin Fitzpatrick was done via a long term associate of Hugh McDonald, Joe Fitzpatrick (Kevin’s father). He was central to the Phil Woolas Representation of the People Act court case (read more here) in which emails were disclosed wherein it emerged that Fitzpatrick senior had sought to create community tensions to ‘get the white vote angry’. He later became the chairman of the United Kingdom Independent Party (UKIP) in Oldham.

As to the proposition that McMahon, and other Labour councillors, were either engaged in, or part of, a longer term ‘cover-up’ of child sex abuse in the town, there is no apparent basis to support such an inflammatory, damaging allegation: There was intensive, closely targeted media coverage, regionally; a high profile GMP investigation had been running for seven years; a safeguarding hub was active in the town and, from analysis of other documents in the Miah ‘dossier’, it is clear that the local police inspector running CSA matters, Haydn Roberts, was very much on top of the job and an active, and lucid, communicator. Notably, with his partner council and the late Michael Meacher MP.

That is not to say that everything was, or still is, perfect. Far from it. Mistakes and poor decisions will have been made in individual cases, or on a wider systemic scale. That is the nature of the job, and particularly so when dealing with highly sensitive, very personal caseloads where most, if not all, the actions or remedies require a judgement call from officers or social workers operating in a very difficult, stressful environment.

The present leader of Oldham Council, Sean Fielding, says:

“Child sexual exploitation is abhorrent. It would be naive to think that cases of child sexual exploitation do not take place, and the council and our partners must be equipped to prevent and detect them in all their forms.

“I am grateful to the survivors who have spoken about their experiences and am confident that if the Council, or our partners, could have done more to protect or support them, and others, that Malcolm [Newsam] and Gary [Ridgway] will identify this.”

Messrs Newsam and Ridgway are, of course, two of the most renowned child sex abuse investigators in the country. Both presently engaged on an Oldham strand of a wide-ranging, independent Assurance Review commissioned by the Mayor of Greater Manchester. Their report on the Rochdale and South Manchester strand, published earlier this year, was very widely acclaimed in the media and by public officials. Maggie Oliver also has great confidence in the capabilities and integrity of those two investigators. Not a view shared by ‘Raja’s Rabble’, who frequently seek to undermine them.

The most recent update on the Oldham Assurance Review can be read in full here. Their work spawned two high profile police investigations, Operation Green Jacket and Operation Exmoor (read more here) where large numbers of victims and alleged perpetrators have now been identified.

A similar wide-ranging police investigation, codenamed Operation Hexagon, has been established alongside the Newsam and Ridgway review in Oldham. It was recently revealed, by the force, that it was set up in November, 2019.

Former ally of Raja Miah, and himself a past Labour councillor in Oldham, Khazir Rehman, has this to say about the allegations against Jim McMahon:

“In 2014, at the height of Jim McMahon’s reign in Oldham, I was an Assistant Cabinet Member, part of the administration. These were my words after Shabir Ahmed [a leader of a Rochdale grooming gang better known as ‘Daddy’] was put away [sent to prison], ‘If supporting Keeping Our Girl’s Safe (KOGS) can save one girl from being abused, I would have done my job’. My ward areas, Fitton Hill and Hathershaw, had extensive work done in them, with Oldham Council funding, your money, it was my sole decision where these funds went to PREVENT grooming, by upping the game in raising awareness so that we could get more intelligence and train young people to recognise abuse.

“Jim McMahon said to me, ‘you are a bright lad and your heart has always been in the right place on many issues.’ Only a person whose own heart is in the right place would say this about someone else. Jim supported me in this work and congratulated me, after Ann Coffey MP, Parliamentary Chair for Missing and Runaway children, came to Oldham and took evidence of our response to the Rochdale grooming scandal, after the report was published.

“The press descended on Oldham to speak to us about the work we were doing, it was innovative; pumping cash into local organisations and generally supporting crackdowns on grooming gangs. Jim and I were two people that took no prisoners when it came to grooming, we said it how it is. Oldham was the only place in the WHOLE COUNTRY where we fought the hardest in this way against grooming gangs. Does this sound like an administration covering up grooming? No, we went after it and spent thousands of pounds on prevention. Here is the Coffey Report (at this link), commissioned by Police and Crime Commissioner at the time, Tony Lloyd, now the current Rochdale MP. Does this sound like an administration that was hiding child abuse? Please read the report, I know it does not fit with some people’s narratives, but I request if this is going to be a trial by social media, then give us a fair hearing as I was part of that council administration that certain people are accusing”.

With specific reference to the ‘Lee Rigby email’, this is what Kaiser (as he prefers to be known) has to say:

“If Jim McMahon is guilty of stopping a news report to protect the town from violence from the far right, and other thugs, that may have reacted at a sensitive time in our country’s history, then I am guilty also, as I supported him. The balancing act of public safety, public order, trumps disclosure of sensitive information. The investigation did not stop into the grooming allegations, which was only [police] intelligence at that point. Public order and protecting people’s lives and property will almost always trump any other consideration. Jim did his job correctly.”

On the issue of child safeguarding, the last words go to Jim McMahon:

“I take safeguarding very seriously and if others have concerns about it, they should be reported to the appropriate authorities immediately.

“Throughout my time as a councillor, and latterly as council leader in Oldham, I acted in the public interest and did my utmost to ensure that the leadership and culture was in place to protect vulnerable people.

“Any suggestion to the contrary isn’t just offensive, but more actively seeks to undermine public confidence. Moreover, it is blatant defamation.

“I find it incredible that Raja Miah, the failed former CEO of the crisis-hit Collective Spirit Free School and the Manchester Studio School feels qualified to make judgements about matters of safeguarding.”

Regrettably, Jim McMahon is far from alone in those views, as will be more fully articulated in another excoriating piece, solely concerned with those failed schools, which will be published on this website next month.

Interestingly, a co-director of Miah in one of a labyrinthine web of companies, Cllr Shoab Akhtar, was in the copy line of the ‘Lee Rigby email’. The company was RISE 2010 Community Interest Company (CIC). Cllr Akhtar says:

“I was invited by Raja Miah to be a director of the CIC in 2011. At the time, I was Deputy Leader and lead for community cohesion in Oldham. Raja had enjoyed success in his role with PEACE and, whilst I was reluctant to take on other commitments at that time, I did so.

“However, there were no meetings called during the year or so I was a Director of RISE and, in an unpaid advisory role, I had nothing to do with its running. My resignation followed the news that Raja was to became involved in free schools.

“I was, and am, opposed to that concept. I later became aware that over £40,000 had, apparently, been transferred from one of those schools [Manchester Creative Studio] into RISE. As there were no board meetings, it is difficult for me to see how that transaction [or transactions] came about”.

The former Mayor of Oldham added: “At all times, everything from my part was transparent and the connection with Raja Miah’s company was included on the Council’s Register of Business Interests and registered at Companies House”.

On the wider issue of CSE, and in the context of grooming, it is often said, and it forms a key part of the false narrative shared by Raja Miah, and his attendant Rabble, that grooming gangs are left unchallenged because of the reliance of the Labour Party on votes from the Asian community.

Firstly, as one prominent local leader has articulated frequently, ‘That is seriously divisive and hugely offensive to the Asian community in Oldham; to suggest that we are all, somehow, complicit in sexual abuse. It is a matter of fact that the vast majority from all communities in the town find abuse abhorrent’. Unsurprisingly, other influential Asians I have spoken to about this smearing are outraged by what the Miah supporters are propagating on social media, unchecked by the local police.

Secondly, it is not the case that child sexual exploitation crimes had been allowed to go unpunished. Though there were, plainly, serious mistakes made in the early stages of the Rochdale grooming scandal, and the Operation Span police cover-up that followed, it is a fact that the abusers were, ultimately, held to account for their actions. The role played by Malcolm Newsam and Gary Ridgeway cannot be overstated in shining a bright light on the Rochdale (and South Manchester) failings.

For those prepared to put in the hard yards, rather than simply rely on a lazy, tailored Raja Miah narrative that suits a particular, and mostly far right political agenda, there is sufficient evidence in the public domain to demonstrate that Oldham Council were open about the characteristics of this type of abuse, and covered it in blog posts (read here and here) and in Council meetings (read here) at that time. There was, it appears through this lens at least, no hiding from the crimes, information withheld or the crisis not fully acknowledged. In short, no cover-up.

As rehearsed earlier in this piece, there is also evidence available of significant work undertaken to review practices around CSE, the introduction of the multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH), and the expansion of best practice across the Greater Manchester region. Moreover, funding was provided for the performance of the play “Somebody’s sister, somebody’s daughter” in secondary schools to inform young people of the lurking presence of CSE.

Project Messenger, running alongside the police operation of the same name, became an enlarged Project Phoenix team, which kickstarted a week of action to raise awareness of CSE, at which time the ‘It’s Not Okay‘ website was launched (see here). Included in that initiative was a Practitioners Guide to High Risk Venues (read more here). This includes the shisha bars that were at the centre of the concerns in 2013 and led to the covert police operation. Stalls were also placed in Oldham Market to raise wider public awareness of the problem.

A freedom of information request made last year shows that in the 10 year period between 2008-18, Greater Manchester Police recorded 502 alleged cases of child sex exploitation. It is not clear how many related to grooming or how many resulted in convictions. The police have been asked to clarify.

If any person or organisation has any other evidence of child sexual abuse, past or present, they are urged to get in touch with the police or the specialist unit at Oldham Council. Or, if mistrust of authorities is present (not unusual) then please contact the Maggie Oliver Foundation where specialist help is also available (see here).

A recent report published by the Home Office, following an investigation into Group-based Child Sexual Exploitation [Characteristics of Offending], concluded in its Executive Summary that “group offending was predominantly carried out by older white males” (read full report here).

As a postscript, it might also be noted that Oldham’s most notorious paedophile was a white, middle-aged male.

In November, 2006, Ronald Castree, a part-time taxi driver from Shaw, was arrested for the murder of 11 year old Lesley Molseed. He was convicted the following year at Bradford Crown Court and sentenced by Mr Justice Openshaw to life imprisonment, with a minimum term of 30 years. Castree was found guilty of Lesley’s murder by a 10-2 majority. She had also been sexually assaulted. The murderer had a previous conviction for kidnapping and assaulting a young girl, aged just nine years old.

Coincidentally, this was the jury margin by which Stefan Kiszko was found guilty in 1976. He was ultimately cleared by the Court of Appeal in 1992.

Stefan’s conviction remains one of the most grotesque miscarriages of justice in police history (read more here).

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

Right of reply has again been offered to Raja Miah. He has declined all previous invitations.

Other political party group leaders in Oldham, Cllr Hobin (Failsworth Independent Party), Cllr Hudson (Conservatives) and Cllr Sykes (Liberal Democrats) have also been invited to comment. The latter proved to be accessible, helpful, articulate and informative. Cllrs Hobin and Hudson opted to remain silent.

Page last updated: Wednesday 20th January, 2020 at 1155 hours

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