Bailey’s on the rocks
Commonwealth games, Issue 1450
ALL GONG WRONG! Anthony Bailey, who has been stripped of some of his titles
IN DECEMBER 2014 we reported that the preening puffball Anthony Bailey –international PR fixer and “inter-faith campaigner” – had been knighted by the governor-general of Antigua & Barbuda (Eye 1382). “Shome mishtake, shurely?” we suggested.

Two and a half years later, the governor-general has come round to our view: Sir Rodney Williams announced last week that he was annulling the title – and those of seven cronies for whom Bailey arranged knighthoods at the same time, including controversial Iraqi oil tycoon Nadhmi Auchi.

In his letter to Bailey, the governor-general says “a number of irregularities have been identified” following a review of the “exchange of honours between Antigua & Barbuda and the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of St George”. This is the obscure Catholic order Bailey took over in 2003 and turned into a networker’s nirvana by holding lavish dinners and dishing out Constantinian “knighthoods” to such eminences as Margaret Thatcher and Bashar al-Assad. (The grateful despot repaid the favour by awarding Bailey the Syrian Order of Outstanding Merit, First Class.)

‘Exchange of honours’
Bailey does love a title. A year after collecting his Antiguan gong he bagged a second Caribbean knighthood, from the governor-general of Grenada. Three of his rich associates were also knighted in this “exchange of honours”, even though by law the island is limited to two knighthoods per year. But alas for the poor little puffball! Last August he and his chums were stripped of these titles as well, following a “legal evaluation”. According to the Grenada Broadcasting Network (GBN), the government’s decision was “based on charges levelled against Sir Anthony in British publications”, notably the Mail on Sunday and the Eye.

Bailey’s chum Baroness Scotland, secretary-general of the Commonwealth, may be watching all this with some concern. The Labour peer was invested into the Constantinian Order as a Dame of Merit in 2002, and by 2014 had been promoted to Dame Grand Cross of Merit and “vice-delegate for England”. As Bailey boasted at the time, she was also “a strong advocate” for the order’s activities “in Antigua & Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada and St Lucia”. On a trip to Dominica with Lady Scotland in November 2014, Bailey awarded a Constantinian knighthood to the prime minister, Roosevelt Skerrit – who, by happy coincidence, nominated Patricia Scotland six months later as his candidate for the Commonwealth top job.

Ipso factos

Over the past year there has been a blizzard of revelations about the vast sums spent by the Commonwealth secretariat since she took over, particularly on “consultancy fees” for old colleagues and refurbishment of her grace-and-favour Mayfair mansion.

Earlier this year she complained to the press regulator Ipso about no fewer than five Mail on Sunday pieces, five more in the Daily Mail and two in Mail Online. Humiliatingly, however, Ipso has now rejected her complaints: it finds that the dozens of details she objected to were fair and accurate, except for one error in a headline.

Following this ruling, a group of former Commonwealth secretariat staff have now written to the chair of the board of governors, Papua New Guinea diplomat Winnie Kiap. “For over seven months the complaint to Ipso was used by Baroness Scotland as a shield to safeguard her from providing responses to matters of public interest including the expenditure of public funds,” they write. Now that Ipso has upheld the Mail’s allegations about profligacy and cronyism, “we would hope that swift measures are taken for the Commonwealth Secretariat to rid itself of the scam-tainted reputation that has befallen upon it in the last one year.”

The chair of the secretariat’s audit committee, Bruce Freer, sent a letter to Winnie Kiap last year expressing concern about Scotland’s excesses. Nothing happened, but this time it may be harder for Kiap to ignore the clamour. Certainly something needs to be done before next April, when the Queen hosts the Commonwealth heads of government in London for the first time in two decades.

Earlier this year, most unusually, Brenda missed the annual Commonwealth Day reception in London – interpreted by some diplomatic sources as an expression of her “displeasure”. As an editorial in the influential website Caribbean News Now! asked last week: “How much longer can Baroness Scotland continue as Commonwealth secretary-general?”

Cab-rank disappointment

One of the “inaccuracies” Lady Scotland complained about was a Daily Mail report from last July that she was involved in Commonwealth discussions over the Maldives even though she had previously worked for “the brutal regime”.

Scotland told Ipso that the earlier legal advice she gave to the Maldives “was undertaken pursuant to the cab-rank principle of the British Bar (the professional obligation on barristers to accept instructions from a client regardless of any personal dislike of the client or the case)”. In another embarrassment for her ladyship, the Ipso judgment points out that this is poppycock, since the Bar Standards Handbook says the cab-rank rule “does not apply if accepting instructions would require you to do any foreign work”.

Scotland’s involvement with the Maldives is a curious tale. She was hired in May 2012 by the regime which had ousted President Mohamed Nasheed in a coup three months earlier. Annoyed by criticism from the Commonwealth ministerial action group (CMAG), the new government asked her to “assess the legal basis upon which Maldives was placed on the agenda of the CMAG”, with a view to forcing the Commonwealth to back off. For this two-week assignment, including a four-day trip to the Maldives, she was paid £75,000.

The body about which the baroness advised the Maldivians in 2012, the CMAG, kept up its critical scrutiny of corruption and human rights abuses, and the Maldives finally resigned from the Commonwealth in protest last October. By now wearing her secretary-general’s hat, Baroness Scotland expressed “my sadness and disappointment” at the decision.

More top stories in the latest issue:

Why social housing tenants will end up helping to pay the bill for the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower disaster.

The Ministry of Justice gives private probation firms a massive £277m bailout but declines to announce the news to MPs or taxpayers.

Dr Grim on the biblical tragedy unfolding in Yemen with the help of lots of British warplanes.

Despite his patchy record, Bolton university’s Bentley-driving vice-chancellor George Holmes defends university chiefs’ high pay.

Why Nato’s traditional foe Russia is (for now) holding the peace between Nato member Turkey and Turkey’s Nato-armed Kurdish foes in northern Syria.

Durand Academy’s state-funded boarding school in Sussex is to close – but the full findings of a damning Ofsted report remain under wraps.

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