The U.K.’s ex-Health Minister Matt Hancock seems to have lost his job as an U.N. envoy for Africa, just days after the announcement of his appointment unleashed a wave of congratulations from former-ministerial colleagues and indignation from development campaigners.
“Mr. Hancock’s appointment by the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa is not being taken forward,” U.N. spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric was quoted telling PassBlue, a journalism site specialised in U.N. issues
Hancock resigned from the U.K. government in June after he was caught on CCTV kissing an aide in breach of government social-distancing guidelines. At the time, he was also facing heavy criticism for his initial management of the COVID-19 pandemic in Britain.
On Tuesday, Hancock announced his appointment as the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa’s envoy for financial innovation and climate change. The job was seen as an opportunity for the disgraced politician to rebuild his reputation.
“I’ll be working … to help African economic recovery from the pandemic and promote sustainable development,” he wrote on Twitter. Former colleagues rushed to express support. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and Sajid Javid, Hancock’s successor as health minister, were among those tweeting congratulations.
But Hancock’s appointment soon came under fire. It was announced on the same day that the British parliament released a highly critical report on the government’s early response to the pandemic. Campaigners also pointed to Hancock’s role in the international response to the crisis.
Development campaign group Global Justice Now cited leaked documents indicating Britain and the U.S. blocked attempts by poorer countries to manufacture their own vaccines. The London-based organisation welcomed the news that Hancock would not be given the job.
“It’s right for the UN to reconsider this appointment,” it tweeted. “The last thing the African continent needs is a failed British politician. This isn’t the 19th Century.”
There was no immediate public comment on the news from Hancock. An announcement of his appointment was no longer available on the website of the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa.
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