Brown’s offsider quits just prior to Budget

Gordon Brown’s number two Paul Boateng announced today he was to quit the Cabinet just over 48 hours before the Budget to play a key role in the government’s war on poverty in Africa.

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The first black Cabinet minister will stand down at the election to take up the post of High Commissioner to South Africa in its capital Pretoria.

As chief secretary to the Treasury and deputy to Brown, he has been crucial in helping draw up the chancellor’s final budget before polling day.

Mr Brown paid tribute to Mr Boateng’s dedication and hard work.

‘He has displayed huge dedication to the cause of African development for many years,’ said Brown. He added that Boateng would play a key role in his new job as part of the government’s drive to eradicate poverty and suffering on the African continent.

Boateng was the first MP of African descent in the House of Commons (for Brent South), as well as the first black Cabinet minister. A Methodist lay preacher with four daughters and two sons, he was elected to his London seat in 1987.

After stints as an opposition spokesman, he became a health minister after the 1997 election, then went on to the Home Office before being made financial secretary to the Treasury after the 2001 general election. He became Cabinet minister and chief secretary in May the following year.

A Labour party member since the age of 15, he’s always been seen as ambitious. However, the appointment of a former Cabinet minister to this crucial South African job will add enormous weight to Blair and Brown’s campaign to tackle poverty on the continent following the high-profile Commission for Africa report published this week.

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