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Meet Kwasi Kwarteng: Liz Truss’s new Chancellor

After eight long weeks of hustings, we finally have a new Prime Minister, and a shiny new cabinet to work alongside her.

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Kwasi Kwarteng/Gov.UK.

Exactly two months after we saw one new Chancellor enter number 11, we now have yet another walking through the door.

A few weeks into a long summer of hustings, it looked clear that Liz Truss was set to be the new prime minister, and that Kwasi Kwarteng would be joining her next door looked almost as likely.

Kwarteng, Truss’s long-time political ally and friend, was always a shoo-in for the job.

One friend even told the Times that the duo are “a bit like Batman and Robin”. 

They described them as “slight social misfits [and] amiable geeks” with strong views in line with one another.

The two became neighbours on the same street in Greenwich before heading to Downing Street together. 

So just who is the Tory MP that’s made his way to one of the most powerful jobs in the country?

Who is Akwasi Addo Alfred Kwarteng?

Kwarteng started out with an impressive academic run, first at Colet Court, then an academic scholarship to Eton, a double first from Cambridge, a notable University Challenge win, a scholarship to Harvard University and a PhD back at Cambridge.

He then worked as a columnist for the Daily Telegraph and was a financial analyst at banks including JP Morgan and City of London.

Kwarteng also got involved in Conservative politics as chair of the Bow Group think tank, remarking that politics was “always something [he] was drawn to”.

Before stepping into his role as Truss’s right-hand man came a failed attempt to become an MP in 2005 and an unsuccessful run for the London Assembly in 2008.

He finally broke through with the “class of 2010” alongside future colleagues Priti Patel, Sajid Javid and, notably, Truss.

After backing the Leave campaign, Kwarteng became a Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond in 2017.

He then moved on to be a junior minister in the Department for Exiting the European Union before a promotion placed him as minister of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

He became business secretary 18 months later and has now stepped into Nadhim Zahawi’s only slightly used shoes as Chancellor of the Exchequer.

What can we expect?

In his first speech in the House of Commons in 2010, Kwarteng criticised the former Labour government for how it tackled the 2008 financial crisis. 

“They have not once accepted any blame for what happened and they seem to think that we can just sail on as before,” he said.

He went on to say that “wealth creation is the most important element in getting us out of this recession”.

Now, faced with a similar economic environment and record levels of inflation, Kwarteng will have the opportunity to tackle the looming recession differently.

No stranger to critiquing his own party, Kwarteng also caused upset under David Cameron when he advocated for cutting the VAT rate to 15 per cent and adding the charge to food and children’s clothes.

He also criticised the Help to Buy housing scheme as inflationary.

In a Financial Times op-ed published the day before the election results were announced, Kwarteng stated that a Truss government would be “unashamedly pro-growth”.

Acknowledging the “extraordinary challenges” facing the country because of covid and the war on Ukraine, Kwarteng wrote, “we have to be bold”.

He laid out a two-pronged plan of action.

First, helping people face the “price shocks” that have hit the country, calling for “decisive action”.

While Truss later vaguely promised to ‘deliver, deliver, deliver’, she also pledged to cut taxes “to reward hard work and boost business-led growth and investment” in her first speech outside number 10. 

She added that she would deal “hands-on” with the energy crisis, taking action this week to deal with bills.

Kwarteng similarly said taxes need to be cut, “putting money back into people’s pockets” and rather dramatically “unshackling our businesses from burdensome taxes and unsuitable regulations”.

He called for this in the form of “fiscal loosening” and re-iterated the prime minister’s pro-growth stance.

When it came to plans for energy, he was less verbose, so we’ll have to see what plans emerge from the government over the next few days.

The second “urgent responsibility” according to Kwarteng is to look to the future and the enduring “health and wealth” of both the economy and the country.

Facing one of the bleakest winters possible, Kwarteng and Truss will have a lot to tackle over the coming months.

With a background in banking and experience as a ministerial aide to a former Chancellor, Kwarteng should stand as good a chance as any to give the economy the boost it needs and to follow through on making Britain a “wealth creating” nation.

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