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Kwasi Kwarteng's mother faced down prejudice to become top lawyer

Kwasi Kwarteng’s mother faced down racial prejudice to reach top of Britain’s legal profession after moving to UK from Ghana in the 1960s with his economist father

  • Charlotte Boaitey-Kwarteng, 78, is head of 12 Square Chambers in London
  • Profile says how she suffered ‘prejudice’ as a black woman in legal profession 
  • Mr Kwarteng’s father, Alfred, 75, was economist for Commonwealth Secretariat  

Kwasi Kwarteng’s mother is a top lawyer who faced down prejudice to reach the top of her profession – after coming to the UK from Ghana in the 1960s with his father.

Charlotte Boaitey-Kwarteng, 78, is head of 12 Square Chambers, which is based in Holborn in north London and specialises in human rights, immigration and public law. 

A profile online tells how her ‘journey to the Bar as a black woman in the 1980s involved overcoming prejudice’ from other members of the legal profession. 

The new Chancellor’s father, Alfred, who is 75, was an economist for the Commonwealth Secretariat.   

The couple’s listed address is a modest semi-detached home on a quiet street in Middlesex. 

The pair moved from Ghana to the UK in the 1960s, before marrying in the St Pancras area of London in 1972.

The spotlight has fallen on Mr Kwarteng’s family and background after he was appointed as Chancellor by the new Prime Minister Liz Truss yesterday.

Kwasi Kwarteng’s mother is a top lawyer who faced down prejudice to reach the top of her profession – after coming to the UK from Ghana in the 1960s with his father. Above: Charlotte Boaitey-Kwarteng, 78, posing with the ‘GUBA Professional of the Year award’ in 2018 

The spotlight has fallen on Mr Kwarteng’s family and background after he was appointed as Chancellor by the new Prime Minister Liz Truss yesterday. Above: Mr Kwarteng arriving in Downing Street today for Ms Truss’s first cabinet meeting since her appointment as PM

Ms Boaitey-Kwarteng’s profile on the website of the Inner Temple, which is one of the four Inns of Court, tells how she gained a law degree from London University in 1970.

She initially worked for the Community Relations Commission, which was set up in the late 1960s as part of efforts to help immigrants from Commonwealth countries integrate into Britain.

She then researched international law while living in Geneva as a ‘stay at home mother’.

The lawyer then went on to study Social Anthropology at Oxford in 1980, before working as the consultant anthropologist for a TV programme made by Granada Television that looked into the Asante women of Ghana. 

Inner Temple’s profile adds that Ms Boaitey-Kwarteng’s background is now in ‘general common law’, but says she has ‘considerable experience’ in ‘criminal law, both defence and prosecution, as well as in employment and local government law.’

Mr Kwarteng’s parents’ listed address is a modest semi-detached home on a quiet street in Middlesex

It continues: ‘She now focuses on arbitration, family law mediation, wills and probate and providing expert opinion on African (especially Ghanaian) customary law (marriages and divorces). 

‘She attended the Ghana Law School in 1997 to study Ghanaian customary laws and was admitted as a barrister of the Supreme Court of Ghana that same year. 

Ms Boaitey-Kwarteng has ‘considerable experience’ in criminal law

‘She is a member of the Nigerian branch of the Chartered Institute of Arbitration and a member of the African Arbitration Association.’

Ms Boaitey-Kwarteng was appointed as a judge on mental health tribunals in 2004, and served in the role until she retired from it in 2014. 

The lawyer was also appointed by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea to conduct an inquiry into racism in connection with the Grenfell Tower fire, which killed 72 people in 2017. 

According to a friend of Mr Kwarteng’s who spoke to The Times, his mother is a ‘particularly important figure in his life’.

They added: ‘She is religious and ingrained a love of public service in him.’ 

Mr Kwarteng, who was born in east London in 1975, is the only child of his parents.

They first sent him to a state primary school in Waltham Forest, before transferring to the private prep school Colet Court in Richmond, west London. 

Mr Kwarteng then won a scholarship to Eton, where he was regarded as one of its brightest pupils.

He went on to study at Cambridge University, where he read classics and history. He later earned a PhD in economic history from the same university in the year 2000. 

His doctoral thesis was on the ‘recoinage crisis of 1695-7’. 

‘Oh f***, I’ve forgotten’: How Britain’s new 6ft 5in Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng dropped an F-bomb TWICE on University Challenge, loves Latin poetry and was described as a ‘young fogey’ by his Cambridge tutor 

By Sam Greenhill for the Daily Mail

The new Chancellor may be a renowned brainbox with a PhD in economic history from Cambridge University.

But Kwasi Kwarteng does not always have the answers. When he appeared on University Challenge in 1995, he buzzed in response to a question about a donkey, only to declare to quizmaster Jeremy Paxman: ‘Oh f***, I’ve forgotten.’

As if it weren’t bad enough the first time, after racking his brains, he added: ‘Oh f***’, again.

Bungling BBC producers failed to notice the 19-year-old classics student’s muttered swearing, and they were broadcast to the nation.

And so it was that Mr Kwarteng first came to national attention in an article on page three of The Sun headlined ‘Rudiversity Challenge’.

The new Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng is a close friend of Liz Truss, so close that he lives 350 yards away in Greenwich

But undergraduate Mr Kwarteng had the last laugh as his team from Trinity College Cambridge won every stage and went on to be crowned the 1995 champions of University Challenge.

He will be hoping his winning streak continues – after Liz Truss appointed him to the Treasury amid some of the toughest economic conditions in living memory.

Although he is not widely known to the public, the 47-year-old MP for Spelthorne, Surrey, comes equipped with a solid academic background.

At 6ft 5in, Mr Kwarteng is a powerhouse physically and intellectually.

He was born in east London in 1975, the only child of barrister mother Charlotte and economist father Alfred, Ghanaian migrants who came to the country as students in the 1960s.

He went to a state primary school in Waltham Forest before transferring to the private prep school Colet Court, and then winning a scholarship to Eton, where he was regarded as one of its brightest pupils.

When Kwasi Kwarteng appeared on University Challenge in 1995, he buzzed in response to a question about a donkey, only to declare to quizmaster Jeremy Paxman: ‘Oh f***, I’ve forgotten.’ After racking his brains, he added: ‘Oh f***’, again

Trinity College, Cambridge team in 1995 – from left, Sean Blanchflower, Kwasi Kwarteng, Robin Bhattacharyya and Erik Gray

Mr Kwarteng first came to national attention in 1995 in an article on page three of The Sun headlined ‘Rudiversity Challenge’

Newly installed Chancellor of the Exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng leaving Downing Street in London yesterday evening

He speaks German, Greek and French, and writes poetry in Latin.

One friend recalled how, when the school introduced Italian to the curriculum, ‘the teachers were trying to teach rudimentary Italian but Kwasi learnt the whole language – the teachers were struggling to keep up with him’.

What question did Kwasi Kwarteng stumble over? 

Jeremy Paxman asked a question about who wrote an account of a journey across southern France, called ‘Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes’.

The answer was Treasure Island writer Robert Louis Stevenson.

But when Kwasi Kwarteng buzzed in, he said to Paxman: ‘Oh f***, I’ve forgotten.’

After racking his brains, he added: ‘Oh f***’, again.

Like Boris Johnson, who attended Eton a decade earlier, Mr Kwarteng shone at the Wall Game, a hybrid of football and rugby, where he played First Wall, described by an Etonian as ‘an almost suicidal position that involved spending much of the match having his head scraped against brickwork’.

And also like Mr Johnson – of whom he is long-time supporter – he won Eton’s Newcastle Scholarship prize for excelling in a series of written examinations.

He was a prefect at the school and is still, it is said, held up as an example of how to succeed in Oxbridge interviews.

Aged 18, Kwarteng is said to have told the nervous, inexperienced tutor interviewing him at Trinity College: ‘Oh, don’t worry, sir, you did fine.’

He excelled at Cambridge where friends described him as ‘supremely confident, but not arrogant’.

One said he ‘had quite a few girlfriends – he had catching up to do after his boys’ private school upbringing’.

Professor Tim Whitmarsh, who taught him Latin and Greek, was quoted as describing him as ‘a bit of a young fogey’, saying: ‘I once saw a 19-year-old Kwasi in full brown tweed bumbling around with a pipe in his mouth on a baking hot day.’

After graduating with a double-first in classics and history, he won a Kennedy scholarship to Harvard University and then returned to Cambridge for his PhD in economic history.

Of the three fellow panellists from his University Challenge team, Sean Blanchflower completed a PhD in mathematics and became vice-president of engineering at a major software company.

Trinity’s team captain, Robin Bhattacharyya, another mathematician, went on to teach maths at a private school, while the fourth member, Erik Gray, is now a professor of English and comparative literature at New York’s Columbia University.

Prince Charles shakes hands with Kwasi Kwarteng as he hosts a reception at Windsor Castle on November 10, 2021

Liz Truss greets Kwasi Kwarteng near the Houses of Parliament in Westminster on July 20, 2022

Kwasi Kwarteng gestures at the Shadow Cabinet during an Economic Update statement in the Commons on February 3, 2022

Princess Anne speaks with Kwasi Kwarteng at a reception for the Queen’s Awards For Enterprise at Windsor Castle last year

Kwasi Kwarteng with then business secretary Andrea Leadsom at the National Glass Centre in Sunderland in January 2020

David Blunkett, Boris Johnson and Kwasi Kwarteng at a Spectator party hosted by Mr Johnson in London’s Holborn in 2003

Kwasi Kwarteng speaks with Prince Edward at a reception for the Queen’s Awards For Enterprise in Windsor last November

Kwasi Kwarteng is pictured in a byline photograph for the London Evening Standard newspaper in May 2009 

Mr Kwarteng too ‘is basically an academic’, said a university friend.

How Kwasi Kwarteng’s University Challenge team won in 1995 

  • First round: Brasenose, Oxford 185 – Trinity 190
  • Second round: Queen’s, Belfast 215 – Trinity 300
  • Quarter finals: St Andrews 155 – Trinity 335
  • Semi finals: Aberdeen 235 – Trinity 245
  • Final: New College, Oxford 180 – Trinity 390

He maintains his interest in history and was recently spotted on a flight reading a book about Bismarck.

But he was also set on a career in politics, and after a spell as a JP Morgan fund manager he became the Conservative MP for Spelthorne in 2010, as David Cameron’s premiership began.

Miss Truss, also 47, was in the same intake of MPs and the pair remain firm friends.

Last year, Mr Kwarteng bought a Victorian villa just 350 yards from Miss Truss’s £1.5million four-storey townhouse in Greenwich, south London.

Now they are neighbours in Downing Street too.

At one point Mr Kwarteng was dating Amber Rudd, the former Conservative home secretary, but the pair split up.

He then met Harriet Edwards, 36, a former pupil of Cheltenham Ladies’ College and now a high-flying corporate lawyer specialising in advising private clients on ‘succession’ planning.

The pair married in 2019 and have a baby daughter, Ida, born last year.

A friend who has known the couple a long time was quoted in another profile as saying Miss Edwards had ‘stabilised’ her husband and ‘given him a home life he didn’t have’ before they met.

Shortly after moving into their £1.74million villa with its large back garden and leafy pergola, the couple had a brush with Greenwich planning officials.

They had the brickwork on the front of the house professionally cleaned without gaining prior approval.

The council said it had received a complaint alleging ‘criminal’ damage to the Grade II-listed property.

The earliest article mentioning Kwasi Kwarteng in the Daily Mail is this from November 2006, when he wrote about how he was friends from university with lawyer Tom ap Rhys Price who was stabbed to death by two teenagers in a robbery in London

But after an investigation, a conservation officer sided with the couple, praising them for sensitively restoring the brickwork to its original Victorian colour.

After eight years serving on the Tory backbenches, Brexiteer Mr Kwarteng’s ministerial career began less than four years ago.

He was called up to the Department for Exiting the European Union, but rose quickly to become a key member of Boris Johnson’s government, taking a place at the Cabinet table in 2021 as Business Secretary.

Said to be a ‘pragmatist rather than an ideologue’, the free-marketeer’s ministerial office allegedly boasts a large whiteboard on which are scrawled the letters ‘MSH’, standing for ‘making s*** happen’.

With the multiple challenges facing the new chancellor, it is a mantra that may serve him well.

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