Who is Kwasi Kwarteng? UK's new chancellor tasked with tackling cost of living crisis

Carolyn Sim reports from Kwasi Kwarteng's Surrey constituency, Spelthorne, where he was elected in 2010

The UK's new Chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, takes on the daunting task of of managing the country's turbulent economy as millions of people face a cost of living crisis.

Mr Kwarteng, 47, inherits an economy expected to plunge into deep recession as inflation soars at a time of ballooning debt and soaring government borrowing costs.

His previous role as energy and business secretary will give him a head start, even if the economic challenges continue to mount.

  • What is Kwasi Kwarteng's background?

Mr Kwarteng, whose parents are from Ghana, was born in the east London borough of Waltham Forest and brought up in a middle-class family.

His mother is a barrister and his father an economist.

An only child, he began his education at a state primary school, but was later sent by his parents to Colet Court, an independent prep school in south west London.Mr Kwarteng was an educational achiever and won a prestigious annual history competition, the Harrow History Prize.

He then won a scholarship to Eton and later read classics and history at Trinity College, Cambridge.

He was a member of the winning University Challenge team on the BBC in 1995.

Kwasi Kwarteng on University Challenge on BBC Television in 1995 Credit: BBC TV/University Challenge

Mr Kwarteng also attended Harvard University on a Kennedy Scholarship before going on to earn a PhD in economic history from the University of Cambridge in 2000.

He began his early career as a journalist and wrote for the Daily Telegraph as well as being a published author including a book about the legacy of the British Empire.

Swapping journalism for the Square Mile, he was attracted by The City and held financial analyst jobs at the likes of JP Morgan.

  • When did Kwasi Kwarteng's political career begin?

He was elected as an MP for Spelthorne in 2010.

Pictured on 2014, Kwasi Kwarteng, MP for Spelthorne, on a flooded street in Staines-upon-Thames with then Prime Minister David Cameron Credit: PA

Mr Kwarteng has been a long term close political ally of Prime Minister Liz Truss and backs her promise to slash taxes and loosen the country's finances to support the economy.

He has clashed openly with Rishi Sunak on his predecessor’s policies, while he is also said to have often been at logger heads with the Treasury.

Writing recently in the Financial Times, Mr Kwarteng said he was relaxed about increasing the UK’s sky-high levels of borrowing to help the economy weather the crisis.

He said: "Given the severity of the crisis we face, there will need to be some fiscal loosening to help people through the winter.

"That is absolutely the right thing to do in these exceptionally difficult times.

"The UK’s ratio of debt to gross domestic product is lower than any other G7 country except Germany, so we do not need excessive fiscal tightening."

Liz Truss is leaving Mr Kwarteng with a challenging task as experts raise concerns over the lack of any headroom in the public finances to fund her plans.

This all comes as soaring inflation, a tanking pound and last month’s biggest sell-off of UK government bonds – or gilts – since 1994 has sent government borrowing costs surging.

Despite Mr Sunak’s insistence that borrowing needs to be kept in check and massive tax cuts will only fuel inflation, Mr Kwarteng sought to assure "that this will be done in a fiscally responsible way" in his recent Financial Times op-ed.

He is likely to want to shake up the Treasury, given reports of his annoyance at its tendency to over-complicate measures, but has rowed back on speculation he will look to end the independence of the Bank of England.

It remains to be seen, however, if he will look to overhaul the Bank’s increasingly out-dated inflation mandate in what is set to be just one of the many dilemmas the new Chancellor must face.

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