Kwasi Kwarteng: who is Liz Truss’s new Chancellor of the Exchequer - is he married to Harriet Edwards?

A key figure in the Boris Johnson government, Kwasi Kwarteng has become Liz Truss’s Chancellor

She was appointed as Prime Minister by the Queen at Balmoral Castle, Scotland on Tuesday (6 September).

Boris Johnson’s 10 Downing Street successor faces a major challenge to bring the cost of living crisis under control.

But her first challenge was to appoint a Cabinet - the PM’s top team of ministers who will run the various government departments and help them to implement their policies.

One of the most high profile positions is Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is essentially the second most powerful person in the UK after the Prime Minister.

Kwasi Kwarteng is widely tipped to become Chancellor of the Exchequer if Liz Truss is appointed PM (image: Getty Images)

The person who has filled this position in theTruss administration is Kwasi Kwarteng.

So, who is he - and what has he said he will do as Chancellor?

Who is Kwasi Kwarteng?

Kwasi Kwarteng, 47, is the MP for Spelthorne - a Surrey constituency that covers Staines-upon-Thames and Sunbury-on-Thames.

Born on 26 May 1975, he was raised in London.

Kwasi Kwarteng launched the UK Energy Security Strategy with Boris Johnson earlier in 2022 (image: Getty Images)

His parents Alfred K. Kwarteng and Charlotte Boaitey-Kwarteng - respectively an economist and a barrister - were originally from the west African country Ghana.

As a child, Mr Kwarteng proved to be highly academic.

Having started out in a state primary school, his parents packed him off to independent school Colet Court at the age of eight-years-old.

He won the Harrow History Price - a prestigious award for fee-paying schools - before attending Eton College.

Eton is famous for having given the UK 20 Prime Ministers, including David Cameron and Boris Johnson.

Kwasi Kwarteng is a prominent Brexit supporter (image: AFP/Getty Images)

While at Eton, Kwasi Kwarteng secured another prestigious academic prize - the Newcastle Scholarship - which has also been won by a certain Boris Johnson.

He went on to study classics and history at the University of Cambridge and was part of a team that won the BBC’s University Challenge in 1995.

Afterwards, he attended Harvard University on a Kennedy Scholarship and then completed a PhD in economic history at Cambridge in 2000.

At Cambridge, Kwarteng was a member of the University Pitt Club - a private members club whose other notable alumni include Prince Charles, John Cleese, Tom Hiddleston and Eddie Redmayne.

Kwasi Kwarteng was a member of the same private members club as Prince Charles as the University of Cambridge (image: AFP/Getty Images)

Between leaving academia in 2000 and becoming an MP in 2010, Mr Kwarteng worked as a financial analyst at investment banks in the City of London and was also a columnist for the Daily Telegraph.

Outside of his political career, the MP has penned several books, including ‘Ghosts of Empire’ about the legacy of the British Empire; ‘War and Gold: A Five-Hundred-Year History of Empires, Adventures and Debt’ and ‘Thatcher’s Trial: Six Months That Defined a Leader’.

The last of these examined Margaret Thatcher’s turbulent 1981 - a year when the UK faced high levels of unemployment, major economic problems and some of the worst violence seen during the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

The other thing to know about Kwasi Kwarteng? He’s one of the tallest MPs in Parliament at 6ft 4in.

Kwasi Kwarteng is 6ft 4in (image: Getty Images)

What’s happened in Kwasi Kwarteng’s political career?

Kwasi Kwarteng’s first foray into politics was a failed attempt to be elected as MP for Brent East in the 2005 General Election.

He came third with just over 3,000 votes in Ken Livingstone’s former seat.

Mr Kwarteng then chaired Conservative think tank the Bow Group and stood in the 2008 London Assembly elections - another election he was unsuccessful in.

In 2010, he became MP for Spelthorne after the retirement of previous incumbent David Wilshire - a Tory MP who was mired in the Parliamentary expenses scandal.

His backbench career saw him serve in the Transport Select Committee (2010 to 2013), the Work and Pensions Select Committee (2013 to 2015) and the influential Public Accounts Committee (2016 to 2017).

Mr Kwarteng then campaigned for Brexit, and supported Boris Johnson in his two attempts to become PM (2016 and 2019).

His first salaried government post came under Theresa May in 2017, when he served as then-Chancellor Philip Hammond’s Parliamentary Private Secretary.

Afterwards, he moved to the Department for Exiting the EU in 2018.

Kwasi Kwarteng is a close ally of Liz Truss (image: Getty Images)

With Boris Johnson’s election as leader in 2019, Kwarteng moved into the Cabinet to become the Business Secretary - a post he has held ever since.

When he became Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), he also became the first black person in UK history to run a government department.

In this role, Mr Kwarteng has supported reducing the UK’s carbon emissions and has played a leading role in the government’s response to the energy crisis.

This has included taking Bulb Energy into public ownership and launching the UK Energy Security Strategy.

Kwasi Kwarteng has not been without controversy since rising to prominence.

Kwasi Kwarteng supported disgraced former MP Owen Paterson in a row over sleaze (image: Getty Images)

He was part of a group of Conservative ministers and backbenchers who defended Owen Paterson after the former Cabinet minister was found to have committed breaches of MP lobbying rules.

This support threatened to undermine Parliamentary standards procedures, became condemned across the House of Commons, and was arguably the starting point for Boris Johnson’s downfall as Prime Minister.

Mr Kwarteng has also been criticised for visiting autocratic regimes, although he has defended himself by arguing engagement with them was better than "shouting from the sidelines".

He is a close ally of Liz Truss (and a near-neighbour - the pair live on the same street in London), with the pair both being fans of free markets, a small state and sitting on the libertarian right-wing of the Conservative Party.

Kwasi Kwarteng supported Boris Johnson’s green agenda (image: Getty Images)

They underlined their vision for the UK in the now infamous 2012 book ‘Britannia Unchained’, alongside Priti Patel and Dominic Raab.

This text has become a target for political opponents as it contains controversial lines, including one about British workers being "among the worst idlers in the world".

So, Mr Kwarteng’s appointment as Chancellor was hardly unexpected.

He has become the UK’s first black person to hold this role.

What will Kwasi Kwarteng do as Chancellor?

Kwasi Kwarteng will be tasked with leading Liz Truss’s charge on tax cuts and, as yet undefined, economic reform.

Writing in the Financial Times on Monday (5 September) before Ms Truss was elected as PM by the Conservative Party membership, Mr Kwarteng sought to set our her economic stall.

He insisted her government would act in a “fiscally responsible way” despite pursuing tax cuts.

Around £30 billion of tax cuts are expected, including reversals of ex-Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s national insurance hike and the planned corporation tax rise.

New Prime Minister Liz Truss said the UK could “ride out the storm” in her Downing Street speech (image: Getty Images)

Tory leadership rival Mr Sunak warned during the contest that Ms Truss’ economic plans would “pour fuel on the fire” of inflation - the issue responsible for the cost of living crisis.

In his FT piece, Mr Kwarteng also said the Liz Truss administration would be “bold” in its pursuit of economic growth, and criticised “stale old economic managerialism that has left us with a stagnating economy” - a direct shot across the bows at ex-Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

He wrote: “Given the severity of the crisis we face there will need to be some fiscal loosening to help people through the winter.”

He added: “Liz is committed to a lean state and, as the immediate shock subsides, we will work to reduce the debt-to-GDP ratio over time.”

Mr Kwarteng has also backed Liz Truss’s warning that redistributing the proceeds of economic growth would not be her priority as leader.

Rishi Sunak has warned Liz Truss’ economic plans could make inflation worse (image: Getty Images)

The intervention could see the government target wholesale costs rather than give out handouts in a manner like the Boris Johnson administration did.

The major criticism of this idea is that it would essentially give handouts to the energy companies, rather than households.

He said: “The problems with it are twofold. It’s enormously expensive and a lot of money goes to people who don’t need it, and [secondly] if you’re holding prices constant what takes the strain is supply, so that increases the risk that you’ll end up with shortages.”

However, Mr Johnson said the policy may be unavoidable.

Who is Kwasi Kwarteng married to?

Kwasi Kwarteng married Harriet Edwards - a London-based solicitor - in December 2019.

The couple have a daughter who was born in October 2021.

Mr Kwarteng was previously in a relationship with former Home Secretary Amber Rudd.