Just four days after the United Nations controversially appointed Matt Hancock as a special envoy to Africa, the body has withdrawn the offer.
The former UK Health Secretary on Saturday blamed the revocation on a technical glitch
“Mr Hancock’s appointment by the UN Economic Commission for Africa is not being taken forward,” UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told PassBlue, a news website that specialises in UN coverage.
“ECA has advised him of the matter,” he said.
In an appointment letter to Mr Hancock, Vera Songwe, executive secretary of the ECA, lauded the “success of the UK’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic and the acceleration of vaccines.”
She said it was “testament” to the qualities he would bring to the unpaid role, which would involve working on financial innovation and climate change in Africa.
News of the appointment sparked a backlash, especially as it coincided with the release of a damning parliamentary report which called the government’s early pandemic response “one of the most important public health failures the United Kingdom has ever experienced.”
Mr Hancock quit Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s cabinet in June after he was caught by security cameras in his own office in an embrace with one of his advisers, in breach of social distancing rules. He gave a penitent resignation speech and gave up his position in the Cabinet, but he remained a Member of Parliament.
The decision by the UN to withdraw the offer was a technical one related to him serving as a lawmaker, Mr Hancock said in an emailed statement to Bloomberg.
“The UN have written to me to explain that a technical UN rule has subsequently come to light which states that sitting Members of Parliament cannot also be UN Special Representatives.
“Since I am committed to continuing to serve as MP for West Suffolk, this means I cannot take up the position.”
He said he looked forward to supporting the UN effort in “whatever way I can in my Parliamentary role.”