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Paul Boateng
Paul Boateng
First black cabinet minister and joint first black MP

The Rt. Hon Paul Boateng MP was appointed Chief Secretary to the Treasury on 29 May 2002. In 1997, he made history when he was appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Health, the first black person to hold ministerial office in the Government. In October 1998, he became the minister of State for Home Affairs.

Born in Ghana in 1951, Boateng is himself the son of a former Ghanaian cabinet minister, and his mother is Scottish. Following a military coup in Ghana in 1966, he moved to England with his family. He came to prominence in the late 1970s as a civil rights lawyer in Lambeth, and became a familiar figure at protests of police activity in South London. He was elected to the GLC in 1981 and 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.

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, has won a promotion likely to be hailed a success by campaigners who want more people from ethnic minorities in high profile posts.

Mr Boateng said at the time of his appointment: "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, which is what it is about".

"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".

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