Matt Hancock has resigned as Health Secretary over his breaking of Covid rules during his affair with an aide.
In a letter to Boris Johnson, he said the government “owe it to people who have sacrificed so much in this pandemic to be honest when we have let them down”.
Hancock was swiftly replaced by former chancellor Sajid Javid, who himself resigned from Johnson’s team in 2020 following a stand-off with Dominic Cummings.
He was forced to quit following a growing clamour from Tory MPs over his conduct, which was sensationally revealed when the Sun newspaper printed a photo of him kissing adviser Gina Coladangelo.
The paper published both images and video footage of the pair in a clinch in the minister’s office in the Department of Health last month - before lockdown rules were eased on social contact like hugging.
On Friday, the minister had defied calls to quit, simply saying he was “sorry” for breaching the rules that he had expected millions of others to abide by.
The PM had given him his full backing, but opinion polls showed that the public wanted him to quit.
In his letter, Hancock wrote: “The last thing I would want is for my private life to distract attention from the single-minded focus that is leading us out of this crisis.
“I want to reiterate my apology for breaking the guidance, and apologise to my family and loved ones for putting them through this. I also need (to) be with my children at this time.”
In response, the prime minister wrote: “You should leave office very proud of what you have achieved – not just in tackling the pandemic, but even before Covid-19 struck us.”
Johnson had refused to sack Hancock, with his spokesman saying the PM considered the matter closed after receiving the West Suffolk MP’s apology on Friday.
But a raft of Tory backbenchers demanded action, as their constituents were “seething” at the hypocrisy of the man in charge of Covid restrictions breaching them himself.
Labour leader Keir Starmer tweeted that the resignation was the right thing to do, but that Johnson should have sacked him.
In a video posted on Twitter, Hancock said: “I understand the enormous sacrifices that everybody in this country has made, you have made. And those of us who make these rules have got to stick by them and that’s why I’ve got to resign.
“I want to thank people for their incredible sacrifices and what they’ve done. Everybody working in the NHS, across social care, everyone involved in the vaccine programme and frankly everybody in this country who has risen to the challenges that we’ve seen over this past 18 months.”
Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s shadow health secretary, said: “It is right that Matt Hancock has resigned. But why didn’t Boris Johnson have the guts to sack him and why did he say the matter was closed?
“Boris Johnson has demonstrated that he has none of the leadership qualities required of a Prime Minister.
“Hancock’s replacement cannot carry on business as usual. On Hancock’s watch waiting times soared, care homes were left exposed to Covid and NHS staff were badly let down. Our NHS deserves much better.”
Javid quit as Chancellor after Cummings persuaded the PM to merge Treasury and Downing Street teams of special advisers.
Viewing the move as a threat to the independence of his department, Javid walked out despite pleas from Johnson for him to stay.
Cummings tweeted on Saturday that he had “tricked” the PM into firing Javid and suggested his return was due to Carrie Johnson.
Here is the resignation letter from Hancock:
And here is Johnson’s reply: