Who is Labour’s candidate for Higham Hill by-election Shumon Ali-Rahman?

The public relations professional is seen as the most likely candidate to win the 26th October by-election

By Josh Mellor, Local Democracy Reporter

The man seen as most likely to win the Higham Hill by-election next Thursday (26th October) has said he will “stand up” for local residents and prioritise green infrastructure investment.

Shumon Ali-Rahman, who lives in the south of the borough, currently works as head of media relations at ACAS, the independent government body that advises on workplace relationships and disputes.

Shumon’s role at ACAS involves overseeing press enquiries, running campaigns and advising senior officials on media strategy. His leaflet describes his role there as “bringing people together to find solutions to the challenges they are facing”.

In a 2019 interview with PR Week he said his job involves being a “savvy wordsmith with strong political judgement”.

Although he has been canvassing in the Higham Hill area, where the by-election will be held on 26th October, Shumon has not been available for an interview, unlike other candidates who have spoken to the Echo.

In campaign leaflets Labour activists have been handing out in Higham Hill, Shumon promises to “stand up” for residents alongside the ward’s two other Labour councillors and promises to push for investment in “trees, rain gardens, cycle hangars and electric vehicle charging points”.

The by-election has been organised after previous Labour councillor for Higham Hill, Alistair Strathern, resigned to campaign for Nadine Dorries’ Mid Bedfordshire seat.

Alistair had represented the ward since 2014, balancing his duties with a job at the Bank of England and later, a position on the council’s cabinet.

In the 2022 local elections, Labour won all three seats in Higham Hill, with at least 1,600 votes each. The next most popular candidate, for the Green Party, won 600 votes.

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Due to ill health from a life-long asthma condition Shumon has not been available for an interview with the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

Shumon appears to have been an active Labour Party member for several years.

He was reportedly chair of the Grove Green branch of the Labour Party in the mid-2010s and stood for the Conservative-leaning Larkswood ward, in Chingford, in 2018, coming fifth.

In 2016 he appeared in the local media after resigning from a governor role at the Lammas School in Leyton in protest at its decision to seek academy status.

At the time, he told the Waltham Forest Guardian he was “strongly against” academy schools, which receive their funding directly from the government rather than via local authorities.

He added that he had “strongly held views” about schools becoming academies, which results in less grant funding going to local authorities. The school converted to academy status in 2018.

In his professional life, Shumon says he worked as a freelance journalist for three years after university, before joining the civil service in 2006.

For six years he was a senior press officer at the Department of Health, though this which he told PR Week was akin to satirical TV series The Thick of It. In his Labour campaign leaflet sent out to residents he describes this time as working “in the NHS”

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