ITV’s political editor has been accused of doing “crisis management” for Matt Hancock after publishing a statement from the MP about the reason why he lost his UN job days after getting it.
Robert Peston quoted Hancock saying a “technical UN rule has come to light”, according to which he cannot continue to be an MP as we wanted to, and be a UN special representative too.
In the statement, the former health minister told Peston: “I was honoured to be approached by the UN and appointed as a Special Representative to the Economic Commission for Africa, to help drive forward an agenda of strengthening markets and bringing investment to Africa.
“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.
“I look forward to supporting the UN ECA in their mission in whatever way I can in my Parliamentary role.”
But independent journalist Alex Tiffin called the published reason a “lie”, saying the ECA did not ask the main UN body first before appointing Hancock, which resulted in the UN reportedly being unhappy about the promotion.
“Stop doing crisis management for him,” Tiffin told Peston, referencing the fact that former prime minister Gordon Brown became a UN envoy whilst being an MP.
An article published by The Guardian in July 2012 states Brown remained an MP whilst becoming a United Nations special envoy for education.
The backlash comes after a UN spokesperson told Pass Blue that Hancock’s appointment has not been “taken forward”, prompting campaigning group Global Justice Now to say that “the last thing the African continent needs is a failed British politician”.
Hancock recently tweeted he was “honoured” to receive the position and said he would be working to “help African economic recovery from the pandemic and promote sustainable development.”
But a UN statement this week said: “Hancock’s appointment by the UN Economic Commission for Africa is not being taken forward.
“ECA has advised him of the matter.”
Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now, said: “It is right for the UN to reconsider this appointment. 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.”
Related: Matt Hancock loses his United Nations job days after getting it