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Former Labour minister Baroness Scotland faces battle to keep top Commonwealth post

Former Labour minister Baroness Scotland faces battle to keep top Commonwealth post as Kenya nominates rival to replace her after a string of controversies

  • Lady Scotland is facing a battle to remain the organisation’s secretary general 
  • Peer has been involved in controversy over spending and appointments 
  • Uhuru Kenyatta nominated his defence secretary Monica Juma to replace her


A  controversial former Labour minister could lose a top Commonwealth job after Kenya put forward a rival candidate.

Lady Scotland is facing a battle to remain the organisation’s secretary general after the East African nation’s president Uhuru Kenyatta nominated his defence secretary Monica Juma to replace her.

The peer, who as Patricia Scotland was attorney general under Gordon Brown’s premiership, was branded ‘Baroness Brazen’ and ‘Baroness Shameless’ after it emerged in 2016 that she spent £338,000 refurbishing her grace-and-favour apartment in Mayfair. 

She has also been criticised for appointing political allies to key posts, and the UK Government had declined to automatically support her re-election.

In his nomination, Mr Kenyatta said Dr Juma, also a former foreign secretary, was ‘a diplomat per excellence’.

‘(She) has an indisputable track-record of strategic leadership,  management, representation and knowledge of government, regional as well as multinational, and multilateral relations, international development, security and humanitarian issues. She is an exemplar of what we in the Commonwealth hold,’ he said.

Lady Scotland is facing a battle to remain the organisation’s secretary general after the East African nation’s president Uhuru Kenyatta nominated his defence secretary Monica Juma to replace her.

In his nomination, Mr Kenyatta said Dr Juma was 'a diplomat per excellence'.

In his nomination, Mr Kenyatta said Dr Juma was ‘a diplomat per excellence’.

‘I have no doubt that Amb Monica Juma will be a strong consensus candidate, who will deliver an effective Secretariat driven by member state priorities. 

‘She will help bolster unity amongst the Commonwealth family, and also enhance innovative partnership that optimizes the impact of our organization.’

Baroness Scotland’s first four year term was due to end at a Commonwealth heads of state meeting in Rwanda last June, but the event was cancelled by Covid. 

Her replacement or endorsement for a second term can only happen at such a meeting, and a new one is yet to be arranged.  

A Commonwealth diplomat close to the issue said: ‘This is frankly bizarre and a bit amateurish from the FCDO. It is common knowledge that there is a quid pro quo between the UK and Kenya on this candidacy and the other Commonwealth member states simply aren’t interested in a UK proxy as Secretary General.’ 

Lady Scotland has been under fire since it was disclosed in 2016 that she spent £338,000 refurbishing her grace-and-favour apartment in Mayfair. 

It later emerged a total of £590,000 of the foreign aid budget had been spent on Marlborough House, the Commonwealth headquarters, in two years. She was also attacked for appointing political allies to key posts.

A senior official forced to quit his secretariat job while working under Lady Scotland won nearly £300,000 compensation. She denied any wrongdoing.

She has also been criticised for delays in implementing a shake-up of the way the Commonwealth is run that was launched when she was first appointed in 2015.

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