United Nations withdrawn Matt Hancock’s job offer

Matt Hancock's United Nations role withdrawn

Former Health Secretary Matt Hancock has had a job offer from the United Nations withdrawn.

Mr Hancock tweeted earlier this week that he had been given a role helping Africa’s economy recover from Covid.

This UN said Mr Hancock would bring valuable experience to the role – but it has now told him the appointment “is not being taken forward”.

Leading figures across Africa and UK opposition parties had criticised the UN’s choice of the MP for the role.

Hancock said on Tuesday that he was “honoured” to be working with the UN’s Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) to help the continent recover from the pandemic.

On Tuesday, the former health secretary tweeted a copy of the letter from UN Under-Secretary General Vera Songwe offering him the unpaid role.

However, campaigners objected to the appointment because of his record in government during the coronavirus crisis, and on Friday the UN’s official spokesperson said the appointment “would not be taken forward”.

The UNECA has since removed the press release on its website announcing Hancock’s appointment to the unpaid role.

The West Suffolk MP faced a backlash from critics on social media, who pointed to the fact that a highly critical report from MPs on the UK government’s handling of the pandemic had been released on the same day.

Mr Hancock’s new role came four months after he resigned from his cabinet post for breaking social distancing guidelines by kissing a colleague.

He had been planning to continue as a Tory MP while working as the UN special representative on financial innovation and climate change for the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.

In her letter to Mr Hancock offering him the job, Ms Songwe said his “success” in handling the UK’s pandemic response was a testament to the strengths he would bring to the role.

The announcement of his new role was greeted with support by senior Conservatives including Michael Gove, Sajid Javid and Damian Green.

However, NGOs and activists objected to the appointment, which was announced on the same day that MPs published a report saying thousands of people had died because the government had failed to lock down early enough, while Hancock was health secretary.

Global Justice Now said in a tweet: “Matt Hancock blocked international efforts to allow low- and middle-income countries to produce their own Covid-19 vaccines, leading to millions of global south deaths. The audacity of this man claiming to help African nations and promote sustainable development is sickening.”

The UN secretary general’s official spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric, said: “Mr Hancock’s appointment by the UN Economic Commission for Africa is not being taken forward. ECA has advised him of the matter.”

The withdrawal of the offer was welcomed by campaign group Global Justice Now.

The group’s director Nick Dearden said: “If Matt Hancock wants to help African countries recover from the pandemic, he should lobby the prime minister to back a patent waiver on Covid-19 vaccines.

“If he’d done that when he was in government, tens of millions more people could already have been vaccinated.

“The last thing the African continent needs is a failed British politician. This isn’t the 19th Century.”

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