Baroness Scotland of Asthal re-elected as Secretary General of the Commonwealth

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Baroness Scotland of Asthal - Luke Dray
Baroness Scotland of Asthal - Luke Dray

Baroness Scotland of Asthal has been re-elected as Secretary General of the Commonwealth, in a blow for the Prime Minister who attempted to have her ousted by backing a rival candidate.

The Labour peer, who currently holds the post, will now serve for another two years in office, following hours of crunch talks on Friday afternoon at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm) in Rwanda.

Boris Johnson had publicly backed Kamina Johnson Smith, Jamaica’s foreign minister, as the next Secretary-General. The result comes amid a toxic row between the Foreign Office and Baroness Scotland, with her allies claiming that the Prime Minister has a “vendetta” against her because she refuses to “do the UK’s bidding”.

Infighting came to a head in recent days, with friends of Lady Scotland accusing the Government of “sowing discord” among Commonwealth nations by using Foreign Office staff to brief out “vitriolic” personal attacks on her to local media outlets.

Government officials hit back, with diplomatic sources accusing Lady Scotland of running a “negative and divisive campaign” which featured “disappointing examples of misinformation”.

They also claimed that Lady Scotland “has not provided the leadership the Commonwealth deserves and has failed to answer members’ needs” and insist that there is a “strong case” for change.

Earlier this week, Lady Scotland was accused of suppressing a report that criticised her administration.

She was said to be withholding the results of an independent review of the Commonwealth Secretariat’s finances, according to a furious letter from the chairman of its oversight body.

But allies of the Labour peer said that her enemies had deliberately concocted the argument in order to undermine her just days before the election.

Opposition from 'significant and diverse' number of member states

Earlier this week, Lady Scotland was accused of suppressing a report that criticised her administration.

She was said to be withholding the results of an independent review of the Commonwealth Secretariat’s finances, according to a furious letter from the chairman of its oversight body.

But allies of the Labour peer said that her enemies had deliberately concocted the argument in order to undermine her just days before the election.

Patricia Scotland, Baroness Scotland of Asthal, poses for a photograph in Marlborough House, London - Carl Court
Patricia Scotland, Baroness Scotland of Asthal, poses for a photograph in Marlborough House, London - Carl Court

By convention, incumbents are re-elected unopposed if they stand for a second term as secretary general, but in 2020 Mr Johnson informed member states that there had been opposition to Lady Scotland’s reelection from a “significant and diverse number” of member states.

Her term had already been extended by two years from her initial four-year tenure because the Rwanda summit, originally scheduled to take place in 2020, was postponed until now due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Johnson declined to comment when asked whether he was disappointed with the result, but said that it is a “good day for democracy”. Conceding defeat, Ms Johnson Smith congratulated Lady Scotland and thanked those who backed her campaign.

Baroness Scotland said it is "deeply humbling" to have been reappointed adding: "To continue to serve our family of nations is a true honour and a privilege and I will do so to the best of my ability. We will face the world’s challenge with unity and purpose."

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