Patricia Scotland retains Commonwealth Secretary-General seat in rare contest

Baroness Patricia Scotland will retain her seat as the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Secretariat for the next four years after winning the highly contested vote Friday that has left the 54-member group sharply divided.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, made light of yet another election blow today as Commonwealth leaders defeated his bid to oust secretary-general Baroness Scotland.

The PM joked that it was a ‘good day for democracy’ as he was grilled on the failure of efforts to replace the former Labour Cabinet member – nicknamed ‘Baroness Brazen’ after a series of controversies.

The UK has criticised her leadership of the organisation, and supported Jamaican foreign minister Kamina Johnson Smith taking over instead.

Sources had been confident that the former Labour attorney general would be voted out at the gathering in Rwanda today, making her the first secretary-general not to be re-elected for a second term.

But in the end Lady Scotland emerged victorious by 27 votes to 24. 

Mr Johnson told a press conference at the summit: ‘What is the Commonwealth? It is an amazing group of 54 countries that share values and in particular, the idea of democracy and I work well with Baroness Scotland – have done for a very long time since I became foreign secretary, I think, and look forward to working well with her in the next couple of years.

‘This is a crucial time for the Commonwealth. I think people are looking more and more to this institution, more and more countries want to join it, they see the value.

Ms Johnson Smith tweeted today: ‘Thanking all the countries and people who supported me in this journey!

‘As I said to many of you- if I didn’t pull through, God wasn’t ready for me to leave Jamaica yet! 

‘Much love always, I continue to serve, and of course, sincere congratulations to Baroness Scotland.’

Mr Johnson had already been hit with a double-whammy of Tory by-election defeats at home before the latest setback.  

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss told MPs on Tuesday that the UK supports Ms Johnson Smith.

Ms Johnson Smith has rejected claims that she is being used as a puppet by the British Government in a power struggle for the leadership of the Commonwealth. 

She welcomed Boris Johnson’s backing, but told The Times that any suggestion that she was as much a proxy candidate for the UK as Jamaica’s choice was ‘offensive’.

Baroness Scotland has dismissed claims she withheld a report on the financing of the Commonwealth. 

Prince Charles, Lady Scotland, Rwanda President Paul Kagame and Mr Johnson on stage in Kigali today

The Commonwealth secretariat, the body which she leads, received the review containing recommendations on its future funding earlier this month.

It followed a decision by the Commonwealth’s biggest funders to temporarily reduce support in 2020 following allegations of cronyism. 

A Commonwealth spokesman denied that publication of the report was deliberately delayed until after the leadership vote.



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