US Congress candidate Allan Levene’s humble beginnings in West Ham
Residents in West Ham may think the American Dream is a concept far removed from their lives but Allan Levene, now a US Congress candidate, started out in Bushey Road and he begs to differ.
Educated at Plaistow Grammar School on Prince Regent Lane, Allan describes growing up in what was then the County Borough of West Ham: “I had a struggle with my upbringing because there wasn’t much money around at the time.
“I’d say we were a middle class family for the area but I think we had a typical West Ham Life.”
Living in Bushey Road, his mother was a homemaker and his father ran a car storage facility the sign of which, reading “Levene’s Garages”, still hung when Allan last visited London 15 years ago.
At 21, Allan packed up with plans to travel around the world but the place he really wanted to end up in was the United States of America - an obession he nurtured by reading his father’s copy of Newsweek religiously, even taking the Underground across London to buy American motorcycle magazines.
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On returning to Britain, Allan worked to pay for college scraping �8 a week but he found his first real job selling life insurance in San Diego which paid six times his salary plus commission.
From there, Allan moved into the municipal bond market, becoming a certified financial planner, which he says gives him a certain expertise into the economics of big business.
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He finally settled in Atlanta, Georgia, with his wife at the age of 32 where he runs a computer consulting business providing data centre equipment.
Politics, Allan explains, is a recent passion of his discovered while watching citizens phone in with complaints on current affairs TV shows.
He said: “The public would phone in and gripe and moan about this and that and as I carried on watching, I got angry.
“This country is great and I’ve seen it start to fray around the edges. But I don’t want to be a person who sits around complaining about it, I wanted to do something about it, something that would make a beneficial impact on other people’s lives. “And if I don’t win, then at least I can say that I tried to make a difference.”
So now Allan is vying to be the Republican candidate for Congress, the US’s lower legislative chamber, for the 11th District of Georgia.
If he wins the primary election in August, and then the general election in November, Allan could be the first English-American of dual nationality status to sit in Congress.
Allan says that Georgians “don’t seem to mind, they are more interested in moving the country forward.” In fact, he sees his dual nationality as an advantage because it lends him a fresh, international approach to many issues.
Allan said: “Someone once told me you are what you think about. I think about Europe a lot, because that’s where I come from, and I think about the US because i have lived here for 40 years now.
“The world doesn’t exist as one country, it exists as a multitude of faceted cultures and I think about things from a global perspective often.
“I have been self employed for a long time now so I have always had this independence. I don’t want to be in the chorus, I want to be the choirmaster.”
It is not big business, Allan argues, that is the evil currently blighting the world’s economy, but a lack of confidence in it.
“The lack of confidence is the big problem in the world right now. People are not confident that there is a good future for them.
“Every generation has gone on assuming that the next generation is going to have it easier than they did but I think this generation have a lack of confidence to think that is the case. This problem isn’t just about the US, it’s in Britain and India, it’s a global confidence issue.”
Allan’s main opponent for the Republican candidacy is Phil Gingrey, the incumbent for the last ten years, but Allan thinks the time is long overdue for an alternative choice, something that is often missing from modern politics.
He said: “There’s this culture of once a politican, always a politican. Once someone gets into office, it’s difficult to get rid of them because they get used to the life and the salary and get to go to all these junkets and it’s all paid for.
“Once they’ve tasted power and money, they treat it like a job and they forget they are there as public servants.”
Allan’s unexpected journey from Bushy Road to Congressional candidacy is not one that he thinks is out of reach to the new generation of young people in West Ham: “I would advocate to young people that are reading this in your newspaper to get an education and travel because travel broadens the mind, it really does.”