politics

Commonwealth leaders could oust secretary general on Friday in explosive row


Baroness Scotland has served as the secretary-general of the Commonwealth for six years – but could be ousted on Friday after the UK government backed a bid to topple her

Prince Charles with Baroness Scotland
Prince Charles with Baroness Scotland

Commonwealth leaders are poised to oust the organisation’s secretary general Baroness Scotland on Friday in an extraordinary international spat.

Britain has backed a bid to install Jamaica’s foreign minister Kamina Johnson Smith in the UK peer’s place at behind-closed doors talks in Rwanda.

Each side accuses the other of a bitter briefing war over the Dominica-born Labour former attorney general, who has led the Secretariat for six years.

It’s understood UK officials believe she has not provided effective and unified leadership, and the campaign to re-select her has been divisive with misinformation spread about her record.

Sources also say she has racked up more than £600,000 in employment tribunal costs.

A fresh row erupted today after it emerged a report on the Commonwealth Secretariat’s long-term finances was being withheld from its board.







An ally of Patricia Scotland said she was the victim of a briefing war, adding: “It’s like trying to burn down the house and asking why someone else isn’t putting out the fire”
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Image:

Getty)

Chairman of the governors Kevin Isaac, High Commissioner of St Kitts and Nevis in London, branded the decision an “affront” in a leaked letter.

But a Commonwealth source close to the peer claimed the tribunal costs were years old and the report had inaccuracies, including the wrong names.

The source told the Mirror: “The Foreign Office have for six years been briefing against her trying to divide people – then coming back and saying she’s been divisive.

“It’s like trying to burn down the house and asking why someone else isn’t putting out the fire.”

Boris Johnson wrote to Commonwealth Nations in 2020 asking for opinions on her leadership and there was no consensus for her to stay, government sources claim.

But a source close to the Baroness hit back: “At the last time this question was approached in 2020, the secretary general had a significant majority and Boris Johnson refused direct requests from member states to reveal the number of states he’d received objections from.”







Labour former attorney general Baroness Scotland
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Carl Court)

A secretariat spokesperson added the auditors’ report was “late and when we did receive the final version we raised factual and other concerns with the consultant about the draft we received.

“We still have concerns and therefore we are obtaining external advice to protect the position of the Secretariat as contract manager.

“We hope to resolve matters, hopefully amicably, as soon as possible.”

There are three candidates for the secretary-general’s job, with Tuvalu’s Sir Iakoba Taeia Italeli also seeking the post.

Commonwealth leaders will decide in a secretive meeting where they take a straw poll to whittle down candidates, then must come to a consensus.

British officials are confident Ms Smith will take the top job.

But other Commonwealth figures cast doubt on this, because African nations were due to nominate a secretary-general from 2024 in a regional rotation.

A source claimed: “Kamina Johnson Smith has to bring Africa with her to win and they’re not going to vote to deprive themselves of the position until 2030.”

The shadowy ‘straw poll’ process may be the last of its kind, with leaders expected to pass rule changes to make it more transparent in future.

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