Patricia Scotland’s tenure as secretary-general of the Commonwealth is expected to end in humiliation with the UK government opposing her re-election. By  Oliver Wright & David Brown




Commonwealth secretary-general Patricia Scotland. Picture: Ella Pellegrini.



 

Patricia Scotland’s tenure as secretary-general of the Commonwealth is expected to end in humiliation with the UK government opposing her re-election, which would make the Labour peer the first holder of the post not to serve a second term.

Commonwealth heads have rejected calls for an automatic renewal when Baroness Scotland’s first term ends next month, it was revealed on Friday.

Downing Street is in negotiations with other nations to select a rival candidate if she seeks re-election. A government source said the UK was keen to find an alternative candidate. « We’re having conversations with like-minded countries about who that might be. But it would be fair to say we think there needs to be a change. »

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has suggested that an alternative candidate should stand against Baroness Scotland, who was attorney-general under Gordon Brown. Mr Johnson said in a letter to Commonwealth leaders, obtained by the BBC, that a survey found that twice as many countries rejected the plan to offer Baronnes Scotland another four years as supported it.

The future leader of the ­organisation — which comprises 54 nations with a total population of 2.4 billion people — should be decided by heads of government meeting in Rwanda in June. Baroness Scotland has been given a three-month extension to her contract.

The Commonwealth’s audit committee has accused her of « circumventing » competitive tendering rules by awarding a £250,000 commission to a company owned by a fellow Labour peer, Kamlesh Patel. New Zealand has suspended its £1.5m ­annual contribution since the auditor’s report. Baroness Scotland’s lawyers have insisted that the decision to award the contract was fully justified.

« The truth is that some people are trying to use Lord Patel to stop the Commonwealth’s first black woman chief from being re-elected, »his spokesman said.

Two secretariat staffers have won employment tribunals after allegations about Lady Scotland’s conduct. In 2016 it was revealed that £338,000 had been spent refurbishing her grace-and-favour Mayfair apartment.

At the meeting in Rwanda, which in 2009 became the Commonwealth’s newest member, African members are likely to seek agreement on a single candidate. The secretariat said it did not comment on leaked documents as « a matter of principle », but added: « The appointment or re-appointment of the secretary-general is a matter for Commonwealth heads of government to determine. »