Paul Boateng

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The Lord Boateng

Lord Boateng Official Portrait.jpg
British High Commissioner to South Africa
In office
14 March 2005 – 26 April 2009
MonarchElizabeth II
PresidentMbeki, Molanthe
Preceded byAnn Grant
Succeeded byNicola Brewer
Chief Secretary to the Treasury
In office
29 May 2002 – 5 May 2005
Prime MinisterTony Blair
ChancellorGordon Brown
Preceded byAndrew Smith
Succeeded byDes Browne
Financial Secretary to the Treasury
In office
8 June 2001 – 28 May 2002
Prime MinisterTony Blair
ChancellorGordon Brown
Preceded byStephen Timms
Succeeded byRuth Kelly
Minister of State for Home Affairs
In office
27 October 1998 – 8 June 2001
Prime MinisterTony Blair
Sec. of StateJack Straw
Preceded byAlun Michael
Succeeded byJohn Denham
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Disabled People
In office
4 May 1997 – 27 October 1998
Prime MinisterTony Blair
Sec. of StateFrank Dobson
Preceded byAlistair Burt
Succeeded byMargaret Hodge
Member of Parliament
for Brent South
In office
12 June 1987 – 11 April 2005
Preceded byLaurie Pavitt
Succeeded byDawn Butler
Personal details
Born (1951-06-14) 14 June 1951 (age 68)
Hackney, England
Political partyLabour
Spouse(s)Janet, Lady Boateng
Alma materUniversity of Bristol

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.[1]

Background and early life[edit]

Boateng was born in Hackney, London of mixed Ghanaian and Scottish heritage; his family later moved to Ghana when Boateng was four years old,[2] his father, Kwaku Boateng, was a lawyer and Cabinet Minister during Kwame Nkrumah's regime. Boateng attended Ghana International School and the Accra Academy, a high school in Ghana. Boateng's life in Ghana came to an abrupt end after his father went to jail in 1966 following a military coup, which toppled the Ghanaian government at the time, his father was imprisoned without trial for four years. Boateng, then aged fifteen, and his sister, Rosemary, fled to the UK with their mother.

They settled in Hemel Hempstead where he attended Apsley Grammar School, he later 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, he represented Cherry Groce, a mother of six who was shot and paralysed by a police officer during a raid on her home, in search for her son.[3] 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[edit]

Boateng was elected to the Greater London Council for Walthamstow in 1981, which was then under the leadership of Ken Livingstone; 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[edit]

He unsuccessfully stood as a parliamentary candidate for Hertfordshire West (which included his former home town of Hemel Hempstead) at the 1983 general election, he was elected at 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 declared, "Today Brent South, tomorrow Soweto!"

Like many other members of the left-wing 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 portfolio included economics, industrial strategies and corporate responsibility.[4] 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.[5]

Ministerial career[edit]

With Labour's landslide victory in 1997, Boateng became the UK's first mixed-race government minister as Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health, where he was responsible for social services, mental health and disabled people. In that position, he published guidelines to end the denial of adoptions purely on the basis of race.[6]

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,[7] he also worked with Eric Holder, then United States Deputy Attorney-General, and Louis Freeh, then Director of the FBI, on issues related to international drug trafficking and interdiction.[8]

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,[9] 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.[10] He also played a leading role in establishing and launching the £450,000,000 Children's Fund designed to tackle child poverty.[11] 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.[12]

Cabinet history[edit]

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, becoming 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.[13] To commemorate this historic achievement, Parliament commissioned a painting of Boateng by Jonathan Yeo, which is displayed in the collection of 21st Century Parliamentarians.[14]

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 £20,000,000,000 in the public sector.[15]

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,[16] 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.[17][18][19] 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.[20][21]

In March 2005, Boateng announced that he would not stand for re-election as an MP at 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[edit]

Due to Boateng's passion and enthusiasm for the government's Africa Commission Report and his associations with African leaders[22] Tony Blair named him to be the next High Commissioner to South Africa for a term of four years.[20][23] 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 with the African National Congress government in South Africa, and it was reported that he privately worked to bring together bitter rivals in the crisis in Zimbabwe, [24] although he publicly condemned the Zimbabwean government's illegal occupation of land from white farmers[25] and the resulting turmoil, which Boateng labelled a "human rights crisis."[26] He has also addressed the World Economic Forum on issues concerning Africa.[27][28] 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.[29]

Appointment to the House of Lords[edit]

On 28 May 2010, it was announced in the 2010 Dissolution Honours that Boateng would become a member of the House of Lords.[30] On 27 June 2010 he was created Baron Boateng, of Akyem in the Republic of Ghana and of Wembley in the London Borough of Brent[31] and was introduced to the Lords 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.[32] 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.[33]

He is a member of Labour Friends of Israel.[34]

Roles outside politics[edit]

Boateng is an active Methodist and is a lay preacher;[35] he served as a Methodist delegate to the World Council of Churches and as Vice-Moderator of its program to combat racism. During the South African General Elections of 1994 which ended Apartheid, he was a member of the delegation sent by the Association of Western European Parliamentarians Against Apartheid to monitor the elections.

He previously served on the board of the English National Opera (1984 to 1997) and the English Touring Opera (1993 to 1997). In 1993, he wrote the foreword to the Harper Collins collected works edition of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility,[36] he has been a commentator and television presenter on programs including Channel 4's "Nothing But The Truth" and the BBC Radio 4's "Looking Forward to the Past."[37]

In 2011 he was a non-executive Director of Aegis Defence Services, a private security, military and risk management company,[38][39] but had left by 2013.[40]

He was serving on the executive board of the international Christian charity, Food for the Hungry, in 2012[41] and is a trustee of the Planet Earth Institute along with chairman Álvaro Sobrinho.[citation needed]

Honours and awards[edit]

In 1988, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference honoured Boateng as the recipient of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Award for his contributions to the field of civil rights.[42]

He received honorary Doctor of Law degrees from West London University on 25 July 2018, Lincoln University (Pennsylvania) in 2004[43] and the University of Bristol in 2007.[44]

Personal life[edit]

Boateng is married to Janet, a former councillor in Lambeth,[45] they have two sons and three daughters.[46]


  1. ^ "Queen Of England Elevates Paul Boateng". GhanaWeb. Retrieved 26 April 2013.
  2. ^ Ian Thomas, "Paul Yaw Boateng", Black History Month 365, 19 August 2015.
  3. ^ "BBC ON THIS DAY | 15 | 1987: Officer cleared in Groce shooting case". BBC News. 15 January 1973. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  4. ^ "Paul Boateng". 100 Great Black Britons. 29 May 2002. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  5. ^ "Pro Bono Work Needs Greater Support". 11 July 1995. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  6. ^ "UK | Adoption rules to end 'misguided' practices". BBC News. 18 November 1998. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  7. ^ "Crackdown on beggars signalled". BBC News. 12 March 2000. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  8. ^ "Ministerial Meetings (US)". Hansard. 29 October 1999. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  9. ^ "Paul Boateng: 'We understand the vital importance of feedback'". The Independent. London. 14 December 2002. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  10. ^ "British Youth In the Spotlight". BBC News. 23 June 1999. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  11. ^ "Poor Children to Get Help". BBC News. 15 November 2000. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  12. ^ Leapman, Ben (29 May 2002). "Boateng: from Leftie to Blairite". London Evening Standard.
  13. ^ "Black Minister Makes Cabinet History". BBC News. 29 May 2002. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  14. ^ "Artwork - Paul Boateng MP - UK Parliament". 20 April 2010. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  15. ^ "2004 Spending Review: A drive for £20bn efficiencies following Gershon review". 13 July 2004. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  16. ^ "Every child matters". Archived from the original on 23 February 2011. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  17. ^ "Boateng meets Ghanaian economic community, civil society". Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  18. ^ "afrol News - Britain pays part of Ghana's debts". Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  19. ^ "Financial Mail - SA CAST IN BIG ROLE IN AFRICA". 3 September 2004. Archived from the original on 25 July 2011. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  20. ^ a b Landberg, Reed V. (14 March 2005). "U.K. Treasury's Boateng to Take Job in South Africa (Update1)". Bloomberg. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  21. ^ "[ARCHIVED CONTENT] Speech by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Paul Boateng MP, at the South Africa Conference - HM Treasury". Archived from the original on 7 April 2010. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  22. ^ unknown. "A diplomat with Africa in his veins". Times LIVE. Retrieved 4 August 2014.
  23. ^ Boateng Moved to Africa Post Archived 11 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^ "A diplomat who could yet be the British Obama". The Spectator. 12 March 2008. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  25. ^ "Zimbabwe broke land deal". Archived from the original on 17 December 2012. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  26. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 25 March 2006. Retrieved 25 March 2006.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  27. ^ "A crocodile with two stomachs; the World Economic Forum". SABCNews. Archived from the original on 29 June 2011. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  28. ^[permanent dead link]
  29. ^ "UK Envoy Calls for Urgent Citizen Advocacy on Trade". 18 March 2008. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  30. ^ "At a glance: The new working peers". The Guardian. London. 28 May 2010. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  31. ^ "No. 59476". The London Gazette. 1 July 2010. p. 12451.
  32. ^ Department of the Official Report (Hansard), House of Lords, Westminster. "Lords Hansard text for 22 July 2010". Retrieved 17 May 2014.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  33. ^ Department of the Official Report (Hansard), House of Lords, Westminster (8 December 2011). "Lords Hansard text for 8 Dec 2011". Retrieved 4 August 2014.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  34. ^ "LFI Supporters in Parliament". Labour Friends of Israel. Retrieved 8 September 2019.
  35. ^ "Methodist serves as Britain's first mixed race Cabinet minister". 13 January 2003. Archived from the original on 13 June 2011. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  36. ^ "Patricia Latkin". Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  37. ^ "The Lord Boateng, PC Authorised Biography – Debrett's People of Today, The Lord Boateng, PC Profile". 14 June 1951. Archived from the original on 19 June 2013. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  38. ^ "AEGIS - About Us". Archived from the original on 12 November 2011. Retrieved 29 October 2011.
  39. ^ "Advisory Committee on Business Appointments | Home". Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  40. ^ "About us". Aegis. Archived from the original on 24 July 2013.
  41. ^ [1] Archived 2 January 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  42. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2 February 2010. Retrieved 2 February 2010.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  43. ^ "Lincoln University". Archived from the original on 19 July 2011. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  44. ^ "Rt. Hon. Paul Boateng: Doctor of Laws - University of Bristol". Retrieved 29 October 2011.
  45. ^ Pierce, Andrew (12 November 2008). "Wife of Paul Boateng investigated for allegedly bullying black staff". The Daily Telegraph. London.
  46. ^ Kate Allen, "Treasure trove" Archived 7 April 2014 at the Wayback Machine , Inside Housing, 24 September 2004.

Further reading[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Laurie Pavitt
Member of Parliament
for Brent South

Succeeded by
Dawn Butler
Political offices
Preceded by
Alistair Burt
Minister for the Disabled
Succeeded by
Margaret Hodge
Preceded by
Alun Michael
Minister of State for Home Affairs
Succeeded by
John Denham
Preceded by
Stephen Timms
Financial Secretary to the Treasury
Succeeded by
Ruth Kelly
Preceded by
Andrew Smith
Chief Secretary to the Treasury
Succeeded by
Des Browne
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Ann Grant
British High Commissioner to South Africa
Succeeded by
Nicola Brewer