Boris Johnson fails to oust Lady Scotland from Commonwealth role

Boris Johnson’s attempt to unseat a Labour peer from the role of the Commonwealth secretary general has failed, in another blow to his credibility.

No 10 had been working behind the scenes for nearly two years to remove Patricia Scotland, claiming that she had failed to modernise the institution after nearly six years in the job.

A meeting deciding whether to replace Lady Scotland with Jamaica’s foreign minister, Kamina Johnson Smith, who was supported by the UK government, ran over by several hours as leaders struggled to reach a verdict.

But after several hours, it was confirmed that Johnson Smith had lost and Scotland was reappointed for two more years. The next election will be in 2024.

Speaking afterwards, Scotland said: “It is deeply humbling to have been reappointed as secretary general of this great Commonwealth. 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.”

In May, the prime minister publicly stated that he was supporting her rival to the role. Johnson said “the UK” supported the candidacy of the Jamaican minister of foreign affairs for her “vast experience and support to unite our unique family of nations and seize opportunities ahead”.

Supporters of Scotland claimed that Johnson’s backing of one candidate, at a time when the UK is supposed to be the neutral scrutiniser of the election process, was an abuse of his position and that he had compromised the UK’s role.

Johnson Smith tweeted: “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.”

Giving a press conference on Friday evening, Johnson rejected the idea that he had been dealt a blow by the decision by Commonwealth leaders to keep Scotland and instead insisted it was a “good day for democracy”.

“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 of it.”

Johnson said it was important that the Commonwealth secretariat delivered value for members.

Comments are closed.