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Wednesday, 29 May, 2002, 09:49 GMT 10:49 UK
Profile: Paul Boateng
Paul Boateng
Paul Boateng has tough Treasury talks ahead
Paul Boateng's appointment as the first black cabinet minister is another stage on the meteoric rise of this high profile figure.

His appointment as chief secretary to the Treasury means he has continued to be a beneficiary of the phrase: one man's tragedy is often another man's gain.

Biography
Educated in Ghana and at Bristol University
1975: Becomes solicitor
1987: Enters Parliament
1989-92: Labour Treasury spokesman
1992-97: Labour Lord Chancellor's Department spokesman
1997-98: Junior health minister
1998-99: Home Office Minister
200-01: Minister for Young People
2001-2002: Financial secretary to the Treasury
As a junior health minister, he was promoted to the Home Office as one of the knock-on effects of Ron Davies' sudden resignation as Welsh Secretary in 1998.

Now a dramatic political resignation has meant he can climb another step up the ministerial ladder and take his place at the cabinet table.

The move is another considerable promotion for Mr Boateng, who since the election has won his spurs at the Treasury where he served in Gordon Brown's team as financial secretary.

Mettle test

He could hardly take over from Andrew Smith at a busier time - he will take charge of the talks for this summer's comprehensive spending review.

Those negotiations will test his mettle as each department pushes for a share of the spending plans for the next three years.

Born in Hackney and of Ghanaian and Scottish descent, Mr Boateng first came to prominence in London in the late 1970s as civil rights lawyer, based in Lambeth and a familiar figure on protests at police activities in the city.

Gordon Brown
Paul Boateng moves up the ladder in Brown's team
Ken Livingstone was his leader on the Greater London Council, where he started to establish a national reputation after his election to the authority in 1981.

It was the start of the GLC's heady days with Ken Livingstone as its leader.

Like many Labour figures who are now models of Blairite respectability, then Mr Boateng was a keen and energetic supporter of radical left-wing causes.

Policing work

He backed Tony Benn as deputy Labour leader in 1981 when the left-winger challenged Denis Healey for the position.

While on the GLC, Mr Boateng became chairman of its police committee, in which role he campaigned for greater accountability and control over the Metropolitan Police, and vice-chair of its ethnic minorities committee.

He continued to be a persistent critic of the police, especially in relation to their dealings with the black and Asian communities.

At the count on the night of the 1987 election, Mr Boateng - overcome with elation at having just been confirmed as the MP for Brent South - famously declared: "Today Brent South, tomorrow Soweto!"

He is probably embarrassed by that old footage now.

Path to moderation

But of the new parliamentary intake, Mr Boateng was one of those to whom the tag of "man to watch" was attached.

And like many of his colleagues, he undertook the long march to moderation.

In 1989 he was talent-spotted by then-leader Neil Kinnock and put on the front bench as a junior Treasury spokesman.

In opposition he was deputy to Lord Irvine, becoming a shadow spokesman for the Lord Chancellor's Department.

He kept that position right up to the 1997 election, and it came as a surprise when Tony Blair then appointed him junior minister for social care and mental health.

Now Mr Boateng, married with five children (some of whom he sent to private schools), a Christian Socialist, has won a promotion likely to be hailed a success by campaigners who want more people from ethnic minorities in high profile posts.


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