Oldham Council leader Arooj Shah slams 'dehumanising' campaign after losing seat in local election

Arooj Shah became the north of England's first female Muslim council leader last year Credit: PA Images

The leader of Oldham council Arooj Shah has slammed a 'dehumanising' campaign after losing her seat in the 2022 local elections.

Labour's Ms Shah became the North of England's first female Muslim council leader in 2021, but was edged out in the Chadderton South ward by the Conservatives, who won by 96 votes.

Speaking after the result was announced Ms Shah has said she felt 'dehumanised' by a deliberate "smear campaign", which she described as "really personal".

Ms Shah says she was the victim of a 'smear campaign'. Credit: MEN Media

Ms Shah said: "I fought a really positive campaign, I believe in positivity, that's what I wanted to bring to politics in Oldham.

"I saw a new low in the Conservatives in Oldham, they really jumped into the gutter. At every opportunity, I told myself 'they go low, you go higher'.

"I think the one thing I can do is that I wanted to do my best for the people of Oldham. Even the opposition, I never retaliated."

Ms Shah said the campaign against her was 'not about policy at all'.

Arooj Shah says she felt 'dehumanised' by the campaign Credit: MEN media

Ms Shah said: "This is not just about me standing here saying this, it was there for everyone to see me. This is the first election I've ever been to where I have not been able to bring my family.

"That's because I just did not want them to be here and experience anything negative. I can't wait to go home this evening."

In March 2022, Ms Shah accused the Oldham Conservatives of collaborating with a third party to hand out leaflets which she described as "defamatory and malicious", an accusation the Conservatives have strongly denied.

In a post on Facebook they said it was "clearly not" a Conservative Party leaflet as there was no "imprint, logo or contact details of any candidate(s)".

During her year in charge, Ms Shah faced numerous challenges including being the victim of a car bomb attack, which damaged her vehicle and a surrounding property, and receiving a number of death threats.

It is the second time in two years the Labour leader of Oldham Council has been unseated, but Labour keep control after a 32.91% turnout.

Oldham Council make up:

  • Labour 35 (down 5 on 2021)

  • Conservative 9 (up 1 on 2021)

  • Liberal Democrat 9 (up 1 on 2021)

  • Independent 7 (up 3 on 2021)