Receive our Behind the Headlines email and we’ll post a free copy of Byline Times
The Conservative candidate selected to replace outgoing MP Nadine Dorries has had a string of his organisations struck off the official companies register, and has been accused of distributing a fake newspaper in the seat.
Festus Akinbusoye, the 45-year-old Police and Crime Commissioner for Bedfordshire, is running to be the next Conservative MP for the rural constituency.
But he has faced a number of local controversies that could hamper his chances of succeeding Dorries.
In August, Akinbusoye was accused of distributing a fake newspaper to constituents, the latest in an ongoing scandal covered by Byline Times.
The ‘Mid Bedfordshire Community Chronicle’ was distributed among voters, and describes Akinbusoye as a “crime-fighting dad” who “stands up for Beds residents” with the subheader “Festus Akinbusoye’s record is winning support”, as first reported by the Bedford Independent.
Akinbysoye’s paper also describes a “close two-horse race between Labour and local Conservatives” – downplaying the possibility of a Liberal Democrat win.
An article on another page attacks both Labour and the Lib Dems at the same time, arguing: “A Lib Dem or Labour MP will score points on the political talk shows, Festus wants to score wins for our business community”.
It was noted by some locals that it was Conservative MP Nadine Dorries who currently has her own political talk show, ‘Friday Night with Nadine’ on Rupert Murdoch’s TalkTV.
Don’t miss a story
In Mid Bedfordshire, both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have been accused of engaging in the use of fake newspapers. Speaking to Byline Times, Paul Hutchinson, co-managing editor of the local Bedford Independent said: “The use of fake newspapers by political candidates makes a mockery of the democratic process and shows how these candidates believe voters are stupid enough to fall for their propaganda.
“Our own readers have expressed how disappointed they are with this practice and the Electoral Commission has also called on them to think twice about printing their campaign material in this way”. The paper did not receive a response to its concerns from Akinbusoye.
Akinbusoye is the former director of at least seven companies – several of which have been dissolved after failing to provide accounts.
On his register of interests, the Police and Crime Commissioner says he is a director of “Feensy Clothing”, which sells t-shirts online, including one saying “DOPEAF” (dope as f**k). However, there does not appear to be an official record of his role on Companies House although he may run it as a sole trader.
His firm Wellbright Group Ltd was compulsorily struck off from the Companies House register in 2011 after failing to file any accounts or company information. He had been terminated as a director the year before, alongside a number of other directors.
Another firm of which he was a director until 2008, Ikan Ventures Ltd, was also struck off in 2011 after failing to file its legally-required accounts.
The similarly named Ikan Services Ltd, of which he was also a director of, was voluntarily dissolved in 2015, shortly after receiving a warning from Companies House that it would be compulsorily struck off the register.
It is not an offence to be struck off the register, and there is no suggestion of wrongdoing by Akinbusoye. However, it is typically a last resort from Companies House when a company has become inactive or unresponsive.
The Government’s own website states: “The [Companies House] registrar may take [strike off] action if they have reasonable cause to believe that a company is not carrying on business or in operation. The registrar may take this view if they have not received company documents that should have been sent to them, mail that the registrar has sent to a company’s registered office is returned undelivered [or] the company has no directors.”
Akinbusoye is also the owner of Ikan Facilities Management Ltd – a security firm in Milton Keynes, boasting “15 years of continuous working partnership with the security industry”.
Latest Companies House records report that the firm has 25 employees, but assets of less than £6,000 and liabilities of around £90,000.
His latest Register of Interests shows that he holds a ‘non-frontline licence’, understood to be a Security Industry Authority (SIA) licence that allows people to be bouncers or security guards.
Akinbusoye is an outspoken figure on social media, often taking a dismissive tone with those he disagrees with.
In a spat on Twitter/X, Akinbusoye criticised people calling political opponents “scum” (an attack on Labour MP Angela Rayner), adding that “We cannot speak of a divisive and toxic political climate, while also pouring hazardous vitriol into the mix”.
It was then pointed out by others that, when Insulate Britain protestors blocked the M25, Akinbusoye had called them “mindless, reckless, and bone-headed” and “moronic”.
He went on to suggest that “these people will cause the death of people one day (if they have not done so already)”. When it was pointed out that this appeared to represent the same sort of “vitriol” he had criticised, he responded with the “thumbs-up” emoji.
During a debate at the Cambridge University Union in January 2022, speakers were asked to speak on the topic “The house has no longer confidence in Her Majesty’s Police Force” following the murder of Sarah Everard. Akinbusoye was a speaker, in his role as PCC.
The first speaker, Jamie Klingler, co-founder of social justice organisation ‘Reclaim These Streets’ challenged the findings of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS), after the watchdog found that the police “acted appropriately” when policing the Sarah Everard vigil.
Responding to Klingler, Akinbusoye said that: “They are independent of the police, just because you did not have your way, doesn’t mean that they were wrong”.
The High Court later ruled that the actions of the Met were unlawful, in contradiction of the original findings.
Later, on Twitter/X, Akinbusoye claimed not to remember Klingler when she brought up the topic again, tweeting: “I meet lots of people. Some are memorable. Some are not.”
Speaking to Byline Times, Klinger recounted how: “I interacted with him publicly while he was speaking. And to come out and be like, ‘Oh, you’re just not memorable’… Well, a woman’s rights activist, talking about women being killed by police, to a PCC, should be memorable.”
“None of it was ever about my feelings being hurt”, Klingler says, “It’s very much about if you can sit through listening to a woman talk about a woman being murdered by a policeman, in the context that we were speaking about it, and not acknowledge and not have any reference point for that, that’s worrying…
“Especially in that capacity [his role as PPC], you would expect somebody to at least give you some cursory respect. He has no right being anywhere near Parliament.”
Speaking to Byline Times, one constituent in Mid Bedfordshire said, “He seems to paint himself as the nice guy, but really shows his true colours when under pressure, and now expects us to vote for him as our local MP.”
Another recent spat involved the Mid Bedfordshire Labour candidate Alistair Strathern. The Sun ran an article highlighting his participation in a Greenpeace demonstration against the Government’s public order bill. Strathern had been picked dressed as a Zombie outside Parliament, in front of a fake tombstone that read “Public Order Bill – Stay Dead”.
Akinbusoye responded to the story by saying: “Given the antics of the Greenpeace group and given the level of disruption that they pose, the people of Mid Bedfordshire will obviously decide what they think about his zombie eco-fanatic stunt”.
In a letter of response sent to the Bedford Independent, another former activist challenged his language, describing it as “an ad hominem attack upon a political appointment unworthy of a potential parliamentarian, and of a Police and Crime Commissioner”, adding: “Rather than being eco-fanatics, we [are] calling for policy changes against a deaf, dumb and blind political establishment determined to maintain the status quo.”
Akinbusoye’s team did not respond to a request for comment.
Do you have a story that needs highlighting? Get in touch by emailing email@example.com
With additional reporting from Josiah Mortimer.