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Ealing Central and Acton SDP candidate Stephen Balogh on why he wants to become MP

On 4 July 2024, the UK electorate goes to the polls to vote for who they want as their Member of Parliament. 

EALING.NEWS has asked all candidates standing in the three Ealing constituencies of Ealing Central and Acton, Ealing North and Ealing Southall 7 questions about who they are, what they hope to deliver and why they want residents to vote for them. 

Stephen Balogh standing for the Social Democratic Party in Ealing Central and Acton answers the 7 questions:

Tell us a bit about yourself, your priorities for the constituency and why you want to be the next member of Parliament for Ealing Central and Acton?
Much of my personal story is contained in the third question below because quite a bit of it has been based in Ealing. I was born in London to Hungarian refugee parents and when I was still a baby we moved to Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire where I grew up, afterwards heading into London to UCL for an Economics degree and Imperial College for a Masters in Transport. A natural stepping stone from there was to London Transport (now TfL) where I cut my teeth as a project manager (see item 4 below) and after that moved to the first of two independent management consultancies within which I came to lead large-scale business initiatives for a number of big corporates. In 2009 I co-founded a professional services firm that has rapidly become a highly successful enterprise.

The twist in my personal story bringing widowhood in 2012, described in more detail below, gave me one big “life is too short” moment. This led me in 2019 to make the decision to step back from my corporate life to concentrate on non-profit organisations and charity work. I would characterise this in three parts: the first is made up of local neighbourhood and other community initiatives; the second is to use my professional skills to help non-profits find a new vision and stronger foundations; the third is the creation of new-style grass roots community especially amongst those who consider themselves politically disenfranchised.

That leads me to the reason I am standing for the SDP in this election, which could be summed up as “community, community and community”. I see a strong and increasing tendency towards the fracturing of community, its slicing up into interest groups vying with each other in what amounts to a zero-sum game. It encourages distinction, differentiation and systematic discrimination on a never-reconciliation basis. Tories and Labour have no answer to this, but I believe strongly the SDP does, and I believe the people of this constituency will recognise the risks we face and the better choices SDP policies would bring.

What motivates you?
From an early age I was struck by the quiet living example of my wonderful English godmother, who from her twenties literally through to the day she died at 95 devoted herself to the service of others through the single-minded giving of her time, skills and financial resources. So many people across all walks of life were touched by her. I can’t say I adopted that mode of being instantly and wholesale, though of course any parent will tell you that selflessness comes with that particular job. But it was through the life-changing moments of caring for my late wife through her terminal cancer and holding our boys close when they lost their precious adoptive mother that I became resolved to follow in my godmother’s footsteps.

In stepping back from my corporate and entrepreneurial career around four years ago, I tentatively adopted the moniker of “community builder”. This finds an obvious place in local community initiatives, but I also turned my professional skills to helping non-profits, such as a bereavement counselling charity and a family-focused research charity, rediscover their mojo and to be set on a firmer footing. But there is much to be done on a broader front, indeed a national one, such as the bringing together of those who consider themselves politically disenfranchised. Although it may seem a bit grandiose to put it like this, I see community as a fractal pattern, complex and varied but coherent as a single form, and then on zooming into the pattern revealing more of its richness. But local communities do not necessarily roll up automatically into a single combined form but can easily shatter into fragments if there isn’t the willing to work together to make it so.

What is your own personal connection to either Ealing Central and Acton or any other part of the borough?
I have lived in Ealing for 33 years, if I’ve got it right all of it in what is now the constituency footprint. After my university years in the late 1980s based in central London I drifted out to Ealing with some ex-student friends, mainly because we already knew people here already. We rented a house opposite the Harvester on Boston Road and continued as ever-so-slightly maturing twenty-somethings. I got to know a young woman also based in Ealing and in 1994 we married and settled in Salisbury Road W13. Being a mixed-race couple (I am the son of Hungarian refugees and she a daughter of an East African Asian family), we found Ealing particularly conducive to our life and lifestyle and got stuck into local community involvement mainly through the Catholic Church in Northfields. In 1999 we moved to Hanger Hill and over the following years adopted two brilliant boys, both themselves Anglo-Asian mixed race.

A classic profile of family life ensued, but this was tragically interrupted by a terminal diagnosis of cancer for my wife, who gave us three more years together before she died in 2012. Survival mode for us was aided by wonderful support from neighbours, parish (by now Ealing Abbey) and St. Benedict’s School staff and parents. I am incredibly fortunate to say that I am now remarried, and together we make up a truly multi-ethnic family.

Latterly, I have largely left my corporate and entrepreneurial career to concentrate on charity and non-profit involvement, including neighbourhood and parish initiatives aimed at bringing people together.

What do you consider to be your 5 top political or personal achievements and what impact have they had?
I am late in life to the political scene (I am in my mid 50s), which I don’t consider a bad thing compared to too many who are lifelong politicos and sometimes have a weirdly distorted perception of “normal” life. My examples thus cover different facets of my life.

London Transport “Countdown” bus stop information system. As a junior project manager in the early 1990s, I found myself shepherding a pilot of real time information for bus passengers that led to responsibility for its roll-out to London, then technologically pioneering and the most ambitious such project in the world. It touches and benefits millions of people daily in such a simple but helpful way. I have to admit that on departure from the project, amongst others I snaffled a handwritten letter from an old boy in Kensal Rise who declared it had transformed his life in giving him choice of how he travelled.

Co-founding of a professional services firm. On the face of it the maddest time to leave secure employment and start something risky and new, when the post-2008 financial crash was still causing ructions across the whole economy, I take quiet satisfaction that I was one of a trio of adventurers to establish a new entrepreneurial firm that is in demand by top firms across the country – and indeed globally – and provides high value employment to over 100 people, including youngsters starting out.

Building a new and unique political community. The greatest moments of satisfaction during my professional career had always been with people, not systems (or, at any rate, systems only in support of people). We all know there is a widespread sense of political disenfranchisement across the country, of people whom Westminster seems to ignore or at best disdain. No-one can see that as a good thing. With a number of volunteers, we have been building a new movement of grass roots groups across the country offering such disenfranchised people the opportunity to know they needn’t be isolated. This has to be a help to the democratic process by encouraging reengagement rather than tacit suppression. It is immensely satisfying to see people in increasing number respond to this initiative with warmth as well as relief that they are not forgotten.

Rescuing an important community-based bereavement charity. Sometimes, finding yourself in the right place at the right time calls out the best in you. I am Chair of Trustees of a bereavement counselling charity which (and this is a matter of public record) was in a difficult position both financially and in its ability to continue effectively with its core purpose. I didn’t go looking for involvement initially, but my personal experience of bereavement – not only in respect of my late wife but also of a close relative who committed suicide at the end of a long and heart-rending period of acute schizophrenia – made me determined once associated with it to use my professional skills to put it on a better footing. A great team effort.

I am a survivor using his experiences for others. Very few get to choose the cards they are dealt in life, but no-one should find themselves having to decision to throw in the hand. Every such case would be a societal tragedy as well as a personal one. I’ve mentioned personal tragedies already. To those I would add instances of abuse in my childhood by a non-family member with unguarded access to the home that left me scarred in ways I am still five decades later coming to terms with: feelings associated with powerlessness and the impossibility of voicing them. It doesn’t in any way give me moral superiority, but it does give me more of an instinct for those on the margins of society, above all a desire for an inclusion that is the opposite of an artificial, brittle inclusivity that fundamentally act to coerce and exclude.

What do you consider to be the top challenges Ealing Central and Acton faces and how will you as the MP address them?
The central focus of my campaign will be on “building up the whole community” because I believe the central challenge is of increasing fragmentation in society caused by a tendency towards discriminatory policies underpinned by contested ideologies. Public rhetoric that makes forces people into categories for preferment or enforced disadvantage should have no place in British society in which people are held to be equal under the law, under policing, under justice. Where there are failures compared to the ideal, these must be dealt with, but not by introducing arbitrariness at the behest of those advocating ever-provisional group distinctions and the setting aside of centuries of common-sense solutions.

Alongside this, there is an increasing sense I hear of people wary of public spaces, including public transport, in which they no longer feel comfortable because the “high trust” society needed for common and communal spaces is breaking down. And despite – or perhaps partly because of – the Mayor of London’s absurd “maaate!” campaign that seemed to miss the mark on a lot of ways in which people feel threatened, the old ability of society to regulate itself almost invisibly has broken down because no-one can be sure what the common denominator expectations of acceptable behaviour are any more.

Closely related is a phenomenon also not confined to Ealing, which is of crime and particularly knife-based and other violent crime. Ealing has not been protected from the general London-wide upsurge.

So, very much thinking about the notion of whole community, plus the restoration of high trust and confidence in public safety. Additional SDP policies especially relevant to those living in this constituency are those relating to health and social care on the one hand, and housing on the other.

Health and social care. There are geographical disparities that leave too many worse off in terms of the service offered. A central SDP policy pledge is that a National Care Service (NCS) will be established which will organise, implement and fund social care throughout the country to provide good quality, comprehensive provision.

Housing. Provision of sufficient housing is a multi-decade policy failure by both the main parties. One of the SDP’s policy pledges is establishment of a British Housing Corporation (BHC) to oversee and fund the construction of 100,000 social homes per year, and another a levy on the land value uplift for private developers attributable to the granting of planning permission on all greenfield sites and undeveloped land.

What do you love about the borough of Ealing?
Ealing has been my home for almost all of my adult life, and I can’t imagine living anywhere else. It is where I have married and raised children. I have courted and married in Ealing and it has always seemed the natural place to bring up a family. It has a great capacity for barrierless community through the generation of goodwill and quite a bit of work to sustain it – but this can only be kept up if attempts and trends to bring about effectively demarcated, increasingly segregated, communities are resisted. And although there are aspects of Ealing Council’s Local Plan that might undermine its green spaces in the future with the need for much scrutiny and checks on change where excessive, they do continue to be plentiful.

How accessible will you be to Ealing Central and Acton residents and how can they get in contact with you now and if elected how will you ensure you are accessible to them in the future?
I am committed to community, and this is the reason I am now active in politics. I have no desire whatsoever other than to serve the people of this constituency if elected. It is early in the campaign and I may establish other channels for communication, but at a minimum I am active on Twitter/X with the handle @BaloghStephen and can be contacted by email at stephen.balogh@sdp.org.uk.

Click here for all Ealing Central and Acton candidates standing.

Are you an Ealing resident with a story to share? Or spotted something we should know about?
Get in touch with us by emailing: news@ealing.news or contact us on X @_EalingNews

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