Matt Hancock lost his new job at the United Nations just four days after his appointment, following outrage from figures who condemned the “breathtaking” decision to appoint him as special envoy for the recovery of Covid in Africa.
The UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) said his appointment “was not being taken into account” after days of criticism.
Mr Hancock, who resigned his post as Health Secretary in June after being pictured on CCTV kissing an assistant, told the Telegraph on Saturday: “I was honored to be approached by the UN and appointed Special Representative to the Economic Commission for Africa, help advance an agenda to strengthen markets and investment in Africa.
“The UN wrote to me to explain to me that a UN technical rule was subsequently uncovered which states that sitting MPs cannot also be special UN representatives.
“As I am determined to continue serving as the Member of Parliament for West Suffolk, that means I cannot fill the position. I look forward to supporting UNECA in its mission in any way possible in my parliamentary role. “
Mr Hancock had been congratulated by senior Conservatives, including his successor, Sajid Javid, and Foreign Ministers Liz Truss and James Cleverly. Vera Songwe, Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations, highlighted her “success” in the fight against the pandemic in the United Kingdom.
But activists and politicians said his appointment was “the definition of a colonial hangover” and showed the UN was not taking the continent’s recovery from the pandemic seriously.
Dr Ayoade Alakija, co-chair of the Africa Vaccine Delivery Alliance of the African Union, told the Telegraph that the decision was “breathtaking”, adding: “It is reminiscent of what was going on at the time of the British Empire, when he behaved badly the upper class children would be sent to India or elsewhere because they were in disgrace at home.
“Has he ever been to Africa? “
Jess Phillips, a Labor MP, said the nomination showed Mr Hancock “failed”, while Nic Cheeseman, an African democracy expert at the University of Birmingham, said it “deceives the faith”.
Mr Hancock added the post to his LinkedIn page and tweeted a copy of the letter he sent to the Commission, accepting the appointment.
The West Suffolk MP has kept a low profile after resigning in disgrace earlier this year, following a revelation of his affair with Gina Coladangelo, a former married colleague in the Department of Health and Welfare.
He has since left his wife, Martha, and is said to have a serious relationship with Ms. Coladangelo.
The UN ECA gave no reason to quash Hancock’s appointment, but campaigners welcomed the news.
Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now, an NGO, said: “It is right that the UN reconsiders this appointment.
“If Matt Hancock is to help African countries recover from the pandemic, he should pressure the Prime Minister to support a patent waiver on Covid-19 vaccines.
“If he had done this when he was in government, tens of millions more could have already been vaccinated.
“The last thing the African continent needs is a failed British politician. It’s not the 19th century.