Kwasi Kwarteng, a long-time friend and political ally of the new UK Prime Minister, has been named as Chancellor of the Exchequer, making him the first Black person to occupy the top treasury job. Prior to his appointment, he served as the first Black business secretary.
Before becoming business secretary, Kwarteng held a more junior role in the business department and was also a junior minister at the former Department for Exiting the European Union, according to the politico.
According to gov.uk, the Chancellor of the Exchequer “is the government’s chief financial minister and as such is responsible for raising revenue through taxation or borrowing and for controlling public spending.” It adds that the Chancellor’s responsibilities cover:
fiscal policy (including the presenting of the annual Budget);
monetary policy, setting inflation targets;
ministerial arrangements (in his role as Second Lord of the Treasury);
overall responsibility for the Treasury’s response to COVID-19.
Kwarteng is of Ghanaian origin. His parents, father Alfred and mother Charlotte came to the UK as students in the 1960s. His father went on to become an economist while his mom became a barrister. The only child of his parents, Kwarteng was born in Waltham Forest, east London in 1975.
He began his education at a state primary and by age eight, he was sent to the independent prep school Colet Court. At age 13, he won a scholarship to study at Eton College and later read history at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he earned Bachelor and PhD degrees in British History.
Kwarteng’s first career started as a columnist for the Daily Telegraph and as a financial analyst at banks including JP Morgan. He authored the book “Ghosts of Empire,” about the legacy of the British Empire and also co-authored “Gridlock Nation” with Jonathan Dupont in 2011, on the causes and solutions to traffic congestion in Britain.
In 2012, he co-authored the book Britannia Unchained with some Tory MPs, including Liz Truss. They claimed: “Once they enter the workplace, the British are among the worst idlers in the world.”
According to the BBC, Kwarteng has since distanced himself from this view. The BBC reported him as saying “that the context of the pandemic, huge government spending on measures such as the furlough scheme, climate change challenges and Brexit mean that it is very difficult even to apply comments from five or six years ago today.”
He first got involved in Conservative politics as the chairman of the Bow Group think tank, according to the BBC. By 2005, his sights were set on parliament and he was unsuccessful in his first attempt to represent the people of Brent East. He came in third after winning Liberal Democrat and second place Labour.
His parliamentary journey began in 2010 when he got his next chance and ran for the seat of Spelthorne in Surrey, a seat he won comfortably. He was re-elected as Conservative MP for Spelthorne on May 7, 2015.
Kwarteng has served on some Select Committees since being elected and has served as Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to the Leader of the House of Lords and the Chancellor of the Exchequer as well as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Department for Exiting the European Union.
Kwarteng has been a strong advocate of local enterprise and reforms in the business environment to make the UK business-friendly. He launched an initiative in 2013 dubbed the “Spelthorne Business Plan Competition” to find the local entrepreneurs of tomorrow. The competition has run successfully every year since it was launched.