UK

Baroness Scotland faces fresh controversy after mourner criticised peer during eulogy

Mourner who criticised Baroness Scotland during her mother’s online funeral is ‘kicked off call’

  • Baroness Scotland sees fresh controversy when peer was criticised in eulogy
  • Taila-Jordan McKenzie claimed mother had been shabbily treated by employers
  • Said Karen McKenzie left job three months before her death ‘but not by choice’

Baroness Scotland is mired in fresh controversy after an online eulogy for one of her top Commonwealth officials was cut short when the peer was criticised.

More than 100 online mourners, including senior diplomats, were stunned to hear Taila-Jordan McKenzie claim during a moving tribute that her mother had been shabbily treated by her employers. 

She told the virtual service that Karen McKenzie, the Commonwealth Secretariat’s director of human rights, left her job three months before her death in December ‘but not by choice’. 

Baroness Scotland (pictured) is mired in fresh controversy after an online eulogy for one of her top Commonwealth officials was cut short when the peer was criticised

She added: ‘Unlike other staff whose contracts were extended for periods between six and 12 months during the Covid-19 pandemic, my mother was discriminated against by having her request for an extension denied.

‘She was treated differently and unfairly despite her protected health condition.’ 

Ms McKenzie went on to claim her mother, a highly respected South African lawyer who served in Nelson Mandela’s government, was rebuffed when she sought a meeting with Baroness Scotland. 

‘The disrespect of not even a response to her request was demeaning,’ she said.

Sources said it was at this point she disappeared from the screen. Baroness Scotland, the Commonwealth’s Secretary General, then appeared and delivered her own tribute.

A senior diplomat told The Mail on Sunday: ‘It was really shocking, one of those moments when you check yourself and ask, “Did that really happen?” The timing was extraordinary.’

But the Commonwealth Secretariat last night denied Ms McKenzie had been cut off deliberately, adding: ‘There were some issues with the connection of some participants… but this was not as a result of any direction from senior management.’

More than 100 online mourners, including senior diplomats, were stunned to hear Taila-Jordan McKenzie claim during a moving tribute that her mother had been shabbily treated by her employers. Pictured: Baroness Scotland

More than 100 online mourners, including senior diplomats, were stunned to hear Taila-Jordan McKenzie claim during a moving tribute that her mother had been shabbily treated by her employers. Pictured: Baroness Scotland

The Secretary General was branded ‘Baroness Shameless’ after it emerged in 2016 that she spent £338,000 refurbishing her grace-and-favour apartment in Mayfair. She was also criticised for appointing political allies to key posts.

During the eulogy, Ms McKenzie said her mother was passionate about her work. ‘I took care of my mother alone, here in London for the last three years, as she was bravely battling with cancer,’ she said.

‘I watched how with every breath she would ensure to complete her assignments because she always said they were… commitments about impacting lives of people who needed someone to advocate for them.’

But she added: ‘I would fail my mother if I did not make known certain nagging things… my mother did not leave the Secretariat by choice… The unexpected discrimination caused her tremendous anguish.’

In a statement, the Commonwealth Secretariat paid tribute to Karen McKenzie’s work and apologised for any distress caused by the loss of the connection at the service.

It added it refuted any claims of discrimination against Ms McKenzie.

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