Commonwealth chief Baroness Scotland was hit by a further blow last night after it emerged that Australia may halt its funding in protest at her conduct.
Canberra’s threat to axe its £4million-a-year grant came as she faced a ‘trial by diplomat’ at her Marlborough House headquarters near Buckingham Palace yesterday amid mounting pressure to resign.
Baroness Scotland was interrogated by 50 high commissioners at a crisis meeting of the Commonwealth Secretariat over a report which lambasted her over a £250,000 commission to a firm run by her Labour friend Lord Patel of Bradford.
The showdown took place hours after a leaked letter by Boris Johnson confirmed a report by the Daily Mail last week that Baroness Scotland has been denied a second four-year term as the £160,000-a-year Commonwealth Secretary-General.
The Prime Minister’s letter said 53 Commonwealth leaders had voted by a two-to-one majority not to leave her in charge for another four years.
Instead, she has been given a three-month stay of execution from March, when her current contract ends, until June, when the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting takes place in Rwanda. Her fate will be decided then.
As current rotating chairman of the Commonwealth, Mr Johnson has a major say over Baroness Scotland’s future. This paper disclosed last week that New Zealand has already pulled the plug on its annual grant of nearly £2million to the Commonwealth Secretariat because it has ‘no confidence’ in Baroness Scotland.
Now the Mail has also been told that Australia, the Commonwealth’s third biggest contributor, has discussed following suit and withholding £4million a year. Canada has refused to reinstate funding withdrawn in 2013.
Yesterday’s extraordinary meeting came after a report by the institution’s audit committee accused her of ‘circumventing’ usual rules by awarding a £250,000 commission to Lord Patel.
Since being appointed to her role she has been nicknamed ‘Baroness Shameless’ and ‘Baroness Brazen’ over claims of lavish spending.