It must come as no real surprise to witness a Jamaican government acting as a willing pawn in the UK government’s plans at elevating domestic partisan politicking to create a Commonwealth incident such as the besmirching of Baroness Scotland .
In pushing Kamina Johnson-Smith (Jamaica’s foreign minister) forward to challenge incumbent Baroness Patricia Scotland for the post of Commonwealth Secretary General (CSG) the Jamaican government seems proud at acting as – UK Conservative Party PM – Boris Johnson’s trojan horse to discredit Baroness Scotland, a former British Labour Party government minister.
Baroness Scotland has been CSG at the Commonwealth Secretariat since 2016 and she is the 6th person to hold the 4-year post which in recent decades is traditionally renewable once, unopposed.
Boris is backed in his mission to depose Baroness Scotland by the usual alliance of head of governments in Australia and Canada whose own current tenure in power have all been tangled by claims of corruption and bullying of the extreme kind.
The pressure to remove Baroness Scotland is said to stem from a number of concerns over her stewardship of the Commonwealth Secretariat such as poor leadership and spending breaches. Her job was on shakier ground following a 2020 KPMG report on that London based organisation.
Baroness Scotland also faced criticism by the Commonwealth Secretariat’s internal audit committee for awarding a contract to her friend Lord Patel valued at roughly £250,000.
The blatant public shaming of Baroness Scotland in this manner has Boris’ filthy political fingerprints all over it. The willingness of some Caribbean and African nations to join in with this public humiliation of her is lamentable.
What is heart of the saga is that Baroness Scotland’s Labour Party affiliation and this is driving Boris and his hardline conservative leaning allies nuts.
What has added to the co-ordinated negative media reporting against Baroness Scotland is that she had taken her role of CSG seriously and given voice to some of the smaller nations within the Commonwealth. She has also pushed for much needed internal reforms and faced resistance within an archaic institution such as the Commonwealth Secretariat. Just as it did 2 decades ago when others tried to introduce serious benchmarking and good practice techniques.
[“Because there are so many entrenched vested interests (at Commonweath Secretariat). And they will be out to get anyone who is serious about reform.” – 2017, former Tory Cabinet minister, Andrew Mitchell.]
Johnson, Morrison and Trudeau (Tricky Trio)
The current prime ministers of the UK (Boris), Australia (Scott Morrison) and Canada (Justin Trudeau) are the last people to lecture Baroness Scotland on good governance and bad practices.
- Boris Johnson’s time as a government minister, Mayor of London and prime minister has been so dogged by claims of corruption, as well as bullying, smearing political enemies, bending the constitution and law breaking.
- Scott Morrison was recently described by one of his own senators in Concetta Fierravanti-Wells as an “autocrat [and] a bully who has no moral compass”.
- Morrison has publicly attacked the anti-corruption government body in the New South Wales (NSW) known as Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) for its investigation into one of his senior Liberal party allies – Gladys Berejiklian – who had to resign as premier of NSW over strong allegations of corruption and conflicts of interests
- “A corruption hearing has heard former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian telling her secret MP boyfriend Daryl Maguire that a public servant’s “head would be gone” but only after he “fixed” a grant proposal in his electorate.”
- Legal experts condemn Scott Morrison’s continuing attacks on ICAC as ‘disgraceful’ and ‘stupid’
- Then there is Trudeau whose premiership has been mired by corruption, from holidaying on the Aga Khan’s private island to the SNC-Lavalin scandal. That latter scandal stemmed from Trudeau’s attempts to interfere in a corruption case. Trudeau eventually removed his own justice minister and attorney general (Jody Wilson-Raybould) for standing up to his interference. Wilson-Raybould was kicked out of Trudeau’s Liberal Party even though an ethics report did confirm that the PM broke conflict of interest rules
Trudeau broke rules in SNC-Lavalin affair, says ethics tsar – BBC
Worth noting the rush by the Boris to reveal damaging findings on Baroness Scotland unlike his refusal to publish the full report of bullying by his Home Secretary – Priti Patel – at the Home Office. Even when Alex Allan (Standards chief and brilliant former UK civil servant) found that Patel had broken the code over ministerial behaviour Boris backed his Home Secretary. Allan resigned over Boris’ decision.
Baroness the Brave?
The playing of the patriotic card to back Johnson-Smith by some in the Jamaican media shows a level of ignorance, short sightedness and bias by many who have become subservient echo-chamber-pots for Boris.
Where Baroness Scotland has come from in her early days in then racist village of Walthamstow, East London to reach where she has today is nothing short of stunning. Yet I feel at critical stages of her career in public office she has faced smirks and undermined by too many envious influential figures. I saw that for myself during her time as a Home Office minister.
During her time at the Commonwealth Secretariat there have been moments when Baroness Scotland may not have covered herself in glory.
- “Commonwealth (Ojiambo) deputy wins compensation for dismissal” – BBC
- “A senior civil servant (Venuprasad), who was subjected to an aggressive press campaign to damage his reputation, has won his employment claim against the Commonwealth Secretariat” – Leigh Day
One of the issues I have long had about Baroness Scotland since she became a public figure in British politics in the 2000s is her low media profile and rarely does media interviews especially tough ones.
In the aftermath of the KPMG report, internal audit findings and negative media briefings, Baroness Scotland should seized this opportunity to raise her profile and challenge the accuracy of these claims. Prior to her appointment as CSG the position was such a toothless role at Britain’s beckon call. Why now Boris?
Baroness Scotland should have opened herself to media scrutiny not just in the UK but also across the media houses of the Commonwealth nations that have become some of her harshest critics i.e. Canada, New Zealand, Canada, Australia, India & indeed Jamaica.
Baroness should have publicly questioned the cost of the KPMG report, demanded that KPMG report be published in full to the public along with her written response to each claim.
It is worth noting from media reports that some of the procurement breaches highlighted at the Commonwealth Secretariat occurred prior to Baroness Scotland’s appointment.
The four key pillars of the Commonwealth – UK, New Zealand, Australia and Canada – always stick together on such inter-governmental issues. India is now a big player too. Indian government’s decision to join the anti Baroness Scotland camp is not surprising given the tribunal of Venuprasad did get decent coverage in the Indian press.
British government’s decision to suspend funding of the Commonwealth Secretariat (£4.7m per year) was no surprise. Boris’ is not a fan of funding such inter governmental organisation unless he has full control and he has taken a leaf out his hero’s (Donald Trump) book who had a habit of withdrawing funding from international groups if he did not get his own way.
The UK political right wingers have zero time for the Commonwealth unless they have absolute control.
One of first decisions Boris did when he became PM was to get rid of the Department of International Development.
- “Patricia Scotland has been given a tough time, unwarranted and undeserved,” “You expect it to be difficult when reforming something like the Commonwealth secretariat, but she has received a barrel load of prejudice and backstabbing. She will see it through, though.” – Peter Mandelson (former UK Labour Party government minister) in 2017
- “#Commonwealth gets a strong new Secretary General in Baroness Scotland. I back her reform efforts. Many global challenges ahead. #CHOGM2015” – Phillip Hammond, then British Foreign Secretary, November 2015 whose role included oversight of the Commonwealth.
Who was Hammond’s successor in 2016?
Boris Johnson.…. who in 2002 wrote in the Daily Telegraph “The Queen loves the Commonwealth… “partly because it supplies her with regular cheering crowds of flag-waving piccaninnies.”
In 2016, Boris (then foreign secretary) did not even know that a Commonwealth flag existed when answering questions from the UK parliament select committee.
The general consensus was that Boris Johnson’s performance at the Foreign Office (2016-18) was the worse in living memory.
Despite the harm to Scotland’s reputation over the Lord Patel deal, the same cannot be said of the noble Lord himself. He has – with the backing of the Boris government – pitched up as the new chair of Yorkshire County Cricket Club following the racism scandals that has engulfed that vaunted organisation.
What Next for Scotland?
In the end this Baroness Scotland affair is all about a duplicitous British conservative prime minister trying to remove a CSG whose political ideology is out of synch with his own. It is also an attempt at blocking her attempts at making the Commonwealth Secretariat relevant for all 54 member nations and not the usual handful.
Yes, there have been questionable concerns over her time there but this plot by Boris is just bias politicking.
It’s not as if the Baroness has tried to change the how misconduct investigations of MPs are done, or cover for endless scandals by a UK health cabinet minister, or allow Tory donors to covertly pay the cost £60k of a flat refurbishment or holidaying in Mustique, or host illegal parties during lockdown and pinnochioing about it or unlawfully porouging parliament to suit his BREXIT agenda. But that’s just a smidgen of the scandals that has been the hallmark of Boris the PM.
The “crimes” of Baroness Scotland are minor when compared to the scandals of her accusers. If the same claims used against the Baroness were applied to her political accusers then none of them would be in office. Not even the Jamaican prime minister.
Shame on those Caribbean and African nations who have fallen for this treacherous move by Boris. The Jamaican media and public sector trying to use Johnson-Smith candidacy as some positive step for so-called brand Jamaica is equally laughable and embarrassing.
The short sightedness of the current Jamaican administration to back Boris is so reminiscent of when in 2019 they ripped up their oil deal with the Venezuela government to backed the moronic antics of then US president Donald Trump.
The current global economic crisis now means the Jamaican govt is having to scurry around to secure oil deals whilst the Trump’s successor -Joe Biden’s administration – is in talks with Venezuela to cover for the oil short fall from following recent sanctions against Russian oil.
If Boris does get his way and removes Baroness Scotland it would confirm that – despite independence and recent bruhaha by some members nations to remove Queen Elizabeth as its head of state – when it comes to the Commonwealth, London will forever call the shots.
No matter how repugnant the holder of the keys to 10 Downing Street is.
Baroness Scotland: UK suspends funding to Commonwealth Secretariat
Baroness Scotland criticised for awarding contract to friend’s firm – BBC
Stay or go? Baroness Scotland asked to explain as Commonwealth scandal grows – Sydney Morning Herald
Boris Johnson’s 50 lies, gaffes and scandals as PM’s future hangs in the balance – Daily Mirror
Scandals and sackings: why critics say Boris Johnson is not fit to be PM – The Guardian
Romford MP Andrew Rosindell stumps Boris Johnson with Commonwealth Flag question