Blow for Johnson as Commonwealth leaders reject bid to oust Baroness Scotland

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Baroness Scotland (Chris Jackson/PA) (PA Wire)
Baroness Scotland (Chris Jackson/PA) (PA Wire)

Boris Johnson has been dealt a fresh blow after Commonwealth leaders rejected his bid to oust secretary-general Baroness Scotland.

The Prime Minister had backed Jamaican foreign minister Kamina Johnson Smith to replace the Labour peer in the role as the public face of the 54-nation body.

But allies rejected Mr Johnson’s move and re-elected Baroness Scotland for a second term during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm) on Friday.

UK officials, who had been privately critical of Baroness Scotland, had been confident Ms Johnson Smith would succeed.

Mr Johnson did not show any sign of frustration as he told a press conference: “It’s a good day for democracy.

“I work well with Baroness Scotland, have done for a very long time, since I became foreign secretary, and I look forward to working with her for the next couple of years.

“We’ll be doing everything we can simultaneously to help strengthen the Commonwealth secretariat and really deliver value for Commonwealth members.”

Baroness Scotland said it was “deeply humbling” to be reappointed for a further two years.

“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,” she added.

“To seek high office is an profound act of service and I want to commend my colleagues who also sought to serve.

“The Commonwealth is richer for the breadth and depth of talented leaders who dedicate themselves to our family of nations.”

Mr Johnson had previously said his choice would have the “vast experience and support to unite our unique family of nations and seize the opportunities ahead”.

But Ms Johnson Smith conceded her defeat, tweeting: “Much love always, I continue to serve, and of course, sincere congratulations to Baroness Scotland.”

Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy said: “This was a divisive campaign and a humiliating diplomatic failure for Boris Johnson that illustrates his embarrassing lack of influence within the Commonwealth.“

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