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Wednesday, 29 May, 2002, 13:54 GMT 14:54 UK
Black minister makes cabinet history
Paul Boateng
Mr Boateng in his new office at the Treasury
Paul Boateng has continued his steady rise in government by becoming the UK's first black cabinet minister.

His new job - as chief secretary to the Treasury - is rated as one of the most demanding in Whitehall.


My colour is part of me but I do not choose to be defined by my colour

Paul Boateng
Predecessor Andrew Smith, meanwhile, has been moved to take over work and pensions from new Transport Secretary Alistair Darling.

Mr Darling goes to transport, where he replaces Stephen Byers who quit on Tuesday.

News of Mr Boateng's appointment was welcomed by the chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, Gurbux Singh.

Mr Singh said: "It is very important to increase ethnic minority representation at all levels of British politics.

"It will be particularly useful to have someone like Paul Boateng actually sitting at the Cabinet table because of his experience of dealing with race issues at the Home Office.

"He will be able to represent the ethnic minority community and hopefully tackle its under-representation at the senior levels of political life."

'Judge my work'

But Mr Boateng told Sky News: "First and foremost I am a cabinet minister.

"I am the chief secretary responsible for delivering the government comprehensive spending review - that is my job, that is what it is about.


This gives hope that black youth too can be MPs, ministers or indeed the prime minister

Lee Jasper
Operation Black Vote
"My colour is part of me but I do not choose to be defined by my colour.

"I work for a world in which people are not judged by their colour but by the content of their character. I want to be judged by my work in this position."

Mr Boateng has been financial secretary at the Treasury since the 2001 election under Chancellor Gordon Brown.

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

Race issues

These involved tough negotiations as each department head vies for more cash over the next three years.

Mr Boateng could hardly conceal his delight as he left Downing Street ahead of the announcement that named him in his new role.

Andrew Smith
Mr Smith is seen as a steady pair of hands

Operation Black Vote which works to encourage the UK's ethnic minorities to participate in the political process also welcomed the news.

Chairman Lee Jasper said: "For the first time in black and parliamentary history our communities will have a figure to aspire to in government.

"This gives hope that black youth too can be MPs, ministers or indeed the prime minister."

Analytical brain

Mr Smith on the other hand was not to be seen as he is on a family holiday in Italy and heard of his new job by telephone.

He was thrilled to be given the job, he said, and as a former employment minister relished the chance to deliver the next stage of the government's welfare to work agenda.

"This is an exciting time for the department as it creates a 21st century service," added Mr Smith.

His new role suits the analytical brain that has proved such an asset at the Treasury.

His steadiness and eye for detail have seen him steadily climb the ministerial ladder - despite the fact he remains relatively unknown in the wider world.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's John Pienaar
"Paul Boateng's promotion has sent a message across cultural lines"
News editor of The Voice, Lester Holloway
"It is a milestone in black political representation"
Lee Jasper, National Assembly Against Racism
"He's an important symbol for the black community"

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29 May 02 | UK Politics
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