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Paul Yaw Boateng, Baron Boateng (born 14 June 1951) is a British Labour Party politician, who was the Member of Parliament (MP) for Brent South from 1987 to 2005, becoming the UK's first mixed race Cabinet Minister in May 2002, when he was appointed as Chief Secretary to the Treasury. Following his departure from the House of Commons, he served as the British High Commissioner to South Africa from March 2005 to May 2009. He was introduced as a member of the House of Lords on 1 July 2010

Background and early life

Boateng was born in Hackney, London of mixed Ghanaian and Scottish heritage; his family later moved to Ghana when Boateng was four years old. His father, Kwaku Boateng, was a lawyer and cabinet minister under Kwame Nkrumah. There, Boateng attended Accra Academy High School. Boateng's life in Ghana came to an abrupt end with the jailing of his father in 1966 after a coup against Nkrumah. His father was imprisoned without trial for four years. Boateng, then 15, and his sister fled to Britain with their mother.

They settled in Hemel Hempstead where he attended Apsley Grammar School. He read law at the University of Bristol and began his career in civil rights, originally as a solicitor, though he later retrained as a barrister. He worked primarily on social and community cases, starting under renowned civil rights advocate Benedict Birnberg, involving women's rights, housing and police complaints, including a period from 1977-1981 as the legal advisor for the Scrap Sus Campaign. Boateng was also an executive member of the National Council for Civil Liberties.[3] He represented Cherry Groce, a mother of six who was shot and paralysed by a police officer during a raid on her home in the search for her son.[4] He became a partner at the firm B M Birnberg & Co, and as a barrister, he practised at Eight King's Bench Walk.

Political career

Boateng was elected to the Greater London Council for Walthamstow in 1981, which was then under the leadership of Ken Livingstone. Boateng was only the second person of Afro-Caribbean descent to be elected to the GLC. As chair of the GLC's police committee and vice-chair of its ethnic minorities committee, he advocated greater accountability in the Metropolitan Police and spoke out against racism in relation to their dealings with the black and Asian communities.

Member of Parliament

He stood, and lost, as a parliamentary candidate for Hertfordshire West (which included his former home town of Hemel Hempstead) in the 1983 general election. He won in the general election of 1987, when he became the MP for Brent South in succession to Laurence Pavitt, being one of the first three black British MPs (the others being Bernie Grant and Diane Abbott). During his victory speech he said: "We can never be free in Brent until South Africa is free too." He then famously declared, "Today Brent South, tomorrow Soweto!"

Like many other members of the left in the 1980s, he became more moderate under the leadership of Neil Kinnock, who made him a junior Treasury spokesman in 1989, making him the first mixed race person to join the front bench as a party spokesperson. His portoflio included economics, industrial strategies and corporate responsibility.[5] In 1992, he became shadow minister for the Lord Chancellor's Department, a post he held until the 1997 general election, where he was a strong advocate for increasing pro bono legal services among UK law firms.

Ministerial career

With Labour's victory, Boateng became the UK's first mixed race government minister as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Health, where he was responsible for social services and mental health. In that position, he published guidelines to end the denial of adoptions purely on the basis of race.

In 1998 Boateng became a Minister of State at the Home Office and subsequently became Number 2 Minister there. He was made a Privy Councillor in 1999. He earned a reputation for being tough on crime, particularly with regard to aggressive begging on the streets.[8] He also worked with Eric Holder, then Deputy Attorney-General, and Louis Freeh, then Director of the FBI, on issues related to international drug trafficking and interdiction.

His portfolio was expanded in 2000, and he became the first Minister for Young People, where his priority was to listen to and be a voice for Britain's youth.[10] He launched the Youth, Citizenship and Social Change programme, then the UK's largest research project designed to examine social exclusion and promoting citizenship among young people.[11] He also played a leading role in establishing and launching the £450m Children's Fund designed to tackle child poverty.Boateng's ministerial colleagues encouraged him to stand as the Labour candidate to be the Mayor of London; however, he ruled himself out and strongly criticised his former GLC colleague Ken Livingstone. Boateng supported the candidacy of Frank Dobson, with whom he had served in the Department of Health.
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Cabinet history

In 2001, he was made Financial Secretary to the Treasury, and was promoted to the position of Chief Secretary to the Treasury in May 2002, making history as Britain's first mixed race cabinet minister. He was quoted as saying "My colour is part of me but I do not choose to be defined by my colour." His appointment was greeted with praise by civil rights activists who said that his appointment gave hope to young black youths and would inspire them to become involved in politics. To commemorate this historic achievement, Parliament commissioned a painting of Boateng by Jonathan Yeo, which is displayed in the collection of 21st Century Parliamentarians.

In his role as Chief Secretary to the Treasury, he was responsible for finalising the Spending Review of 2002 and leading the Spending Review of 2004. Boateng, coordinating with Sir Peter Gershon's report, announced in 2004 the government's efficiency programme to save over £20 billion in the public sector.

Boateng played a leading role in coordinating the Every Child Matters policy paper, which called for the reform of children's services, including greater accountability and coordination among government agencies. He was also a passionate advocate for increasing development aid to Africa and the developing nations. Foreshadowing his future role, he made numerous trips to Africa, meeting with business and government leaders in an effort to highlight the fact that international aid and the Millennium Development Goals were key priorities for the government. Boateng also assisted Gordon Brown in drafting the Africa Commission report, which called for increasing aid to Africa from Western nations to $50 billion a year In March 2005, Boateng announced that he would not stand for re-election as an MP in the general election. Dawn Butler was selected by the Constituency Labour Party to replace him and was elected in Brent South.

High Commissioner to South Africa

Due to Boateng's passion and enthusiasm for the government's Africa Commission Report and his associations with African leaders Tony Blair named him to be the next High Commissioner to South Africa for a term of four years. Many Africans praised the appointment, stating that it was an important symbolic break from Britain's colonial past and saw it as a symbol of Tony Blair's commitment to the continent. Boateng is credited with building a close relationship to South Africa's ANC government, and it was reported that he privately worked to bring together bitter rivals in the crisis in Zimbabwe,  although he publicly condemned the Zimbabwean government's illegal occupation of land from white farmers and the resulting turmoil, which Boateng labeled a "human rights crisis." He has also addressed the World Economic Forum on issues concerning Africa. In 2008, he participated in a number of talks with political leaders in the United States to encourage them to support the Doha Development Round trade negotiations that would open Western markets to goods from Africa and other developing countries.[30] His tenure as High Commissioner ended in May 2009 following a request by the South African government due to allegations that his wife had verbally bullied the local domestic staff.

Appointment to the House of Lords

On 28 May 2010, it was announced in the 2010 Dissolution Honours that Boateng would become a member of the House of Lords.[32] He was introduced as Lord Boateng of Akyem and Wembley on 1 July 2010; he was supported by Lord Ouseley and Lord Janner. His maiden speech to the House of Lords highlighted the needs of poor and disadvantaged children, both in rural and urban areas. He called on the Government to examine the impact that the Budget and forthcoming Spending Review would have on children at risk.[33] In December 2011, he initiated a debate in the House of Lords to discuss cuts in funding to the Citizens Advice Bureau centres, which Lord Boateng vehemently opposed.

Career outside of politics

Boateng is an active Methodist and Methodist lay preacher; he served as a Methodist delegate to the World Council of Churches and as Vice-Moderator of its program to combat racism. He previously served on the board of the English National Opera (1984 to 1997) and the English Touring Opera (1993 to 1997). During the historic South African General Elections of 1994, he was a member of the delegation sent by the Association of Western European Parliamentarians Against Apartheid to monitor the elections. In 1993, he also wrote the foreword to the Harper Collins collected works edition of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility.[36] He's been a commentator and television presenter, most notably for Channel 4's "Nothing But The Truth" and the BBC Radio 4's "Looking Forward to the Past."

In 1988, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference honored Boateng as the recipient of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Award for his contributions to the field of civil rights.[38] He received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Lincoln University (Pennsylvania) in 2004[39] and the University of Bristol in 2007. He is currently a non-executive Director of Aegis Defence Services, a private security, military and risk management company. He also serves on the executive board of the international Christian charity, Food for the Hungry, and is a trustee of the Planet Earth Institute along with chairman Álvaro Sobrinho.
Personal life

Boateng is married to Janet, a former councillor in Lambeth.[31] They have two sons and three daughters.
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