Labour criticised for not allowing local party members to select Higham Hill by-election candidate

Local branch members had no say in Shumon Ali-Rahman being chosen to run in the Higham Hill by-election next week, reports Josh Mellor, Local Democracy Reporter

Labour’s candidate in next week’s Higham Hill by-election was selected by senior officials rather than local party members.

Labour Party members wishing to be a councillor usually go through a selection process that involves being interviewed by a local campaign committee before a final vote by local party members. 

However, days after Alistair Strathern resigned, London Labour’s executive committee said it would interview and select its preferred candidate.

On 26th October, residents of Higham Hill in Walthamstow will elect which candidate will replace Labour’s Alistair Strathern, who resigned on 5th September.

A Walthamstow Labour Party member accused London Labour of having “muscled in” on the selection process without explanation.

When approached by the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS), a spokesperson for London Labour declined to comment or explain under what rule it had taken over the selections.

The LDRS understands that Shumon Ali-Rahman was selected by the London Labour panel from a total of five applicants.

Another applicant Labour sources have named was former councillor for Higham Hill, Hather Ali, who Labour blocked from standing again in the 2022 local elections.

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Labour candidate Shumon Ali-Rahman, credit: Waltham Forest Labour

Labour members who spoke to the LDRS on condition of anonymity said taking over local democratic processes in their party is an “ongoing issue” both locally and nationally.

They suggested that controlling the selection process is part of a struggle between right and left-leaning members of the party, although London Labour’s exact motivation remains unclear in this case.

A dramatic example of senior officials controlling the party’s selection process occurred recently when 19 sitting councillors in Leicester – the majority from black, Asian or minority ethnic backgrounds – were deselected by Labour’s national committee in March this year.

Locally, before the May 2022 elections three sitting Waltham Forest councillors were blocked from standing – Liaquat Ali MBE, his son Umar Ali and their relative Hather Ali.

In 2021, Liaqat was narrowly defeated in an internal Labour group leadership election which reportedly saw him win 21 votes against leader Grace Williams’ 23 votes.

Cllr Williams has declined to comment on the selection process.

If you have information linked to this story, contact [email protected]. Your anonymity will be protected.

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