Baroness Patricia Scotland retained her position as the Commonwealth Secretary General (CSG) after she fought off a Boris Johnson-led smear-fest mission to unseat her.
Scotland defeated her Boris-backed opponent Kamina Johnson-Smith (Jamaica’s foreign minister) by 27 votes to 24 in an ill-tempered campaign with the election held in Kigali, Rwanda that literally divided the 54 member nations of the Commonwealth right down the middle.
In the lead up to the vote by the 54 member nations it was stunning to see how elements of the Commonwealth media were used by number 10 Downing Street to discredit Scotland in the most heinous manner. Duplicitous acts that continued right up to the day of the vote.
This CSG vote was unnecessary given Scotland had just two more years to serve out her 2nd & final term. But Boris Johnson was hell bent on publicly humiliating Scotland.
Boris has long had tensions over Scotland going back to his time as Mayor of London when he was dismissive of then British Labour government’s criminal justice team of which Scotland was the Attorney General amongst other ministerial positions.
For one critical reason, Scotland (Labour Party grandee) is not a BREXITER and this would made it impossible for her to gain any backing as CSG from a Boris-led Conversative government; unlike David Cameron – his former friend – who as PM in 2015 pushed Baroness Scotland’s case to be the CSG.
The only type of Labour Party politicians that Boris has appointed to serious positions of authority in his government were those who were pro-BREXIT such as Baroness Stuart of Edgbaston (appointed First Civil Service Commissioner in March 2022) and Baroness Kate Hoey (Trade Envoy to Ghana in August 2021)
The fact that the Andrew Holness-led Jamaica Labour Party administration was happy to appease Boris Johnson’s just shows how little they know or care about the background of the creeping public humiliation of Scotland.
Part of the Jamaican media’s disturbing treatment of Baroness Scotland was as if she was not in Johnson-Smith’s class career-wise when in fact it is Scotland who has had a more illustrious career from the minute she left her home of Walthamstow, East London and was called to the Bar in 1977 at the age of 21. Not to mention Scotland’s numerous siblings who ended up having stellar careers either in the medical or scientific field. For a black family then to reach such heights in London was a big deal.
But just as in her early years when appointed baroness to the House of Lords there has been smirks and snide remarks regarding Scotland’s ennobled title. In those days and even today some of her critics did not even know that Scotland was her surname.
Only last week a Jamaican radio host was poo-pooing Scotland’s Baroness title without any explanation as to why Patricia Scotland acquired the title.
[When the Labour Party defeated the 18-year Conservative government in the 1997 general election, Tony Blair – then prime minister – had so few Labour members in the House of Lords (parliament’s upper house ) to ensure his legislative agenda would get the desired votes. Blair had to stack the House of Lords with new members who would support his agenda including Patricia Scotland who by then was a respectable legal mind.]
In recent weeks, elements of the media in Jamaica, the UK and Australia had already written off Scotland’s chances of continuing beyond June 2022.
The Holness administration seemed so confident of victory that a raft of government minsters, civil servants and media personnel joined Holness and Johnson-Smith on the trip to Rwanda for the Commonwealth heads of government conference.
If the media and Johnson-Smith supporters thought Scotland was not going to put up a fierce defense then they do not understand the latter’s tough upbringing, especially her early days in Walthamstow, then one of the most racist areas of London.
Scotland was up against a relentless Downing Street-led smear machine and she won. Some achievement.
Some of the supporters of the Johnson-Smith campaign accused any Jamaican detractors of disloyalty and envy (bad mind) but that is so far from the reality.
This is no anti-Johnson-Smith or some pro Baroness Scotland view on my part. It is the poor judgement by Holness inc. in doing the dirty work of a British government led by Boris Johnson that was my beef.
I was proud to see Esmond Reid – a former classmate of 5 years in high school – as the Jamaica’s most senior diplomat on the African continent and accompanying Johnson-Smith. But I just disagree with this particular flawed diplomatic endeavour.
Those “detractors” have witnessed what a dishonourable government the Johnson’s administration has been towards black immigrants and the idea of Jamaica standing by Boris was going to amplify strong emotions.
Given the resources and time spent this result was a humiliation for both the Holness and Johnson administrations. Both administrations can deny all they like that Johnson-Smith was not a proxy. But British scholars and enthusiasts will confirm the proxy claims whenever they gain access to the relevant documents from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office under the the Freedom of Information Act or later on from the National Archives.
The outcome was also a big win for Mia Mottley (prime minister of Barbados) who came out stridently to back Scotland.
The Scotland vs Johnson-Smith race was unnecessary and the Jamaican government must learn to read the international political room more astutely. Jamaican administrations for too long has allowed itself to be poorly treated by Downing Street which for decades has shown for a deep disdain for Jamaica.
Bad enough the Holness administration was taken for a ride by Donald Trump (Venezuelan oil deal) but Boris Johnson? Not even 160 of Boris Johnson’s fellow MPs in the Tory Party (including some ministers) have any confidence in him.
Politically, Holness owes Johnson-Smith big time for taking on this gambit; so expect some major appointment/ reward that is beneficial to her liking.
Since I first came across Boris Johnson in the late 1990s – both in London government and media circles – he has managed to always defy convention and get his own way.
As a public figure Boris has consistently shown a disregard for the rule of law, institutions, race, protocol, international agreements, British constitution and human decency. But Boris saunters through thanks chiefly to huge support he gets from his friends in the British media. Many of these journos have spent stints working with Boris at Downing Street acting as his protective shield.
Thus it was no real surprise that Boris ignored a long held agreement that the Baroness Scotland’s successor would come from Africa and went all in for Johnson-Smith.
Only last week journalist Simon Walters wrote in the UK Times of how Boris – when he was Foreign Secretary – tried to get employment for his girlfriend (now wife) Carrie Johnson. The Number 10 media machine went into over drive and forced the Times pulled the article from its website and there the story died in media land despite the severity of the claims made by Walters who stands by his report.
So just think, Boris Johnson – a journalist & politician –forced a newspaper owned by Rupert Murdoch to pull a story and there was no outrage in the wider (mostly conservative ) media circles of government interference. That’s British media hypocrisy on stealth who love to lecture other nations about press freedoms.
So this victory against Boris Johnson by Baroness Patricia Scotland is big. Very rarely does Boris lose such a political fight when he has the media doing his bidding.I do hope the other Labour Party learn from this; the British Labour Party that is.
But when it comes down to it the whole concept of the Commonwealth it is one big joke.
Of the 54 members just over 30 heads of government chose to attend last week’s conference in Rwanda but leaders from the likes of Australia and New Zealand chose to be elsewhere.