Kwasi Kwarteng: from Eton prefect to Britain’s tax-slashing first black Chancellor

Kwasi Kwarteng took a scythe to taxes for millions of Britons today after being handed the toughest job in Government just weeks into his tenure as Chancellor.

Like his predecessor Rishi Sunak he has been handed an economic crisis of seismic proportions before the ink on his new business cards has even dried.

In Mr Sunak’s case it was the the Covid pandemic in 2020. For Mr Kwarteng it is how to  get UK PLC out of an energy price and inflation hole dug by Vladimir Putin and his invasion of Ukraine.

To do so Mr Kwarteng today unveiled the biggest raft of tax cuts in half a century in an event which looked very much like an emergency Budget, even if the Treasury was careful to avoid calling it one.

Mr Kwarteng 47, will need to keep to his mantra of MSH – Make Sh*t Happen – if he is to help the UK grow its way to recovery.

The avowed free marketeer today introduced a swathe of tax cuts and other economic levers he and Prime Minister Liz Truss will hope will see off the worst predictions for Britain’s immediate future.

The new Chancellor may be a renowned brainbox with a PhD in economic history from Cambridge University, but he does not always have the answers. When he appeared on University Challenge in 1995, he buzzed in response to a question about a donkey, only to declare to quizmaster Jeremy Paxman: ‘Oh f***, I’ve forgotten.’

As if it weren’t bad enough the first time, after racking his brains, he added: ‘Oh f***’, again.

Bungling BBC producers failed to notice the 19-year-old classics student’s muttered swearing, and they were broadcast to the nation.

And so it was that Mr Kwarteng first came to national attention in an article on page three of The Sun headlined ‘Rudiversity Challenge’.

But undergraduate Mr Kwarteng had the last laugh as his team from Trinity College Cambridge won every stage and went on to be crowned the 1995 champions of University Challenge.

He will be hoping his winning streak continues – after Liz Truss appointed him to the Treasury amid some of the toughest economic conditions in living memory.

The former Business Secretary, who has a home on the same Greenwich street as Ms Truss, has moved in next to her in No11 with his solicitor wife Harriet, and their young daughter.

Like predecessor Rishi Sunak, Kwasi Kwarteng he has been handed an economic crisis of economic proportions before the ink on his new business cards has even dried.

Harriet Edwards

Quasi Quarteng

The former Business Secretary, who has a home on the same Greenwich street as Ms Truss, has moved in next to her in No11 with his solicitor wife Harriet Edwards, and their young daughter.

Mr Kwarteng was born in east London to Ghanaian parents who moved to England as students in the 1960s.

Charlotte Boaitey-Kwarteng, 78, is head of 12 Square Chambers, which is based in Holborn in north London and specialises in human rights, immigration and public law.

A profile online tells how her ‘journey to the Bar as a black woman in the 1980s involved overcoming prejudice’ from other members of the legal profession.

His father, Alfred, was an economist with the Commonwealth Secretariat.

They first sent him to a state primary school in Waltham Forest, before transferring to the private prep school Colet Court in Richmond, west London.

Mr Kwarteng then won a scholarship to Eton, where he was regarded as one of its brightest pupils and was a prefect – known in the school as a praeposter.

He went on to study at Cambridge University, where he read classics and history. He later earned a PhD in economic history from the same university in 2000. His doctoral thesis was on the ‘recoinage crisis of 1695-7’.

After unsuccessful tilts at Parliament and the London Assembly he won the safe Surrey seat of Spelthorne in 2010 and has held it ever since.

The new Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng is a close friend of Liz Truss, so close that he lives 350 yards away in Greenwich

The new Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng is a close friend of Liz Truss, so close that he lives 350 yards away in Greenwich

Harriet attended Cheltenham Ladies’ College, whose illustrious alumnae include the fragrant Mary Archer, fashionista Amanda Wakeley and former minister Amber Rudd, which whom Mr Kwarteng previously had a relationship.,

After graduating from Trinity College, Dublin, in History and Modern Languages, she worked for auctioneers Christie’s in Geneva and then UBS investment bank in New York, before qualifying as a solicitor.

She worked as a senior associate at accountancy firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers, specialising in advising ‘individuals and families’ about ‘succession planning and asset protection’, particularly ‘family owned businesses’.

His political career has not been without controversy. In 2012 he and four other Tory members of the 2010 parliamentary intake published a book that branded British workers ‘among the worst idlers in the world’ and demanding the new coalition government do more to promote ‘hard graft’.

The book, Britannia Unchained – Global Growth and Prosperity, questioned whether Britain’s political system ‘has the will to truly tackle our debt’.

In it, Mr Kwarteng and four other future ministers – Priti Patel, Dominic Raab, Chris Skidmore and the new PM Ms Truss – criticised the welfare dependency culture and the young Britons who ‘prefer a lie-in’ and leave tough jobs to immigrant labourers.

It warns that the country is being dragged down by a bloated public sector, poor productivity, years of excessive spending, too little growth and increasingly large public sector pension liabilities.

The most controversial passage argues that a bloated state, high taxes and a generous welfare system, have fuelled laziness.

‘Once they enter the workplace, the British are among the worst idlers in the world,’ the book says. ‘We work among the lowest hours, we retire early and our productivity is poor.

‘Whereas Indian children aspire to be doctors or businessmen, the British are more interested in football and pop music.

‘Too many people in Britain, we argue, prefer a lie-in to hard work.’The MPs urged the coalition to copy the culture of a work ethic in South Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong.

‘Britain will never be as big as China or Brazil, but we can look forward to a new generation, ready to get to work,’ the MPs said.

‘If we are to take advantage of these opportunities, we must get on the side of the responsible, the hard- working and the brave. We must stop bailing out the reckless, avoiding all risk, and rewarding laziness.’




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