Image source, House of CommonsImage caption, Owen Paterson has been at the centre of a row over how to police MPs' conduct
Owen Paterson has resigned as an MP after a row over his conduct led to a government u-turn.
The Conservative was found to have broken lobbying rules and was facing suspension – until Tory MPs blocked it by calling for an overhaul of the MPs' standards watchdog instead.
They initially had the backing of No 10, but Downing Street reversed its decision after a furious backlash.
Mr Paterson said he now wanted a life "outside the cruel world of politics".
In a statement, the 65-year-old, who has represented North Shropshire since 1997, said the past two years had been "an indescribable nightmare for my family and me".
He said his integrity had been "repeatedly and publicly questioned", and that he was "totally innocent" of breaking lobbying rules.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has called on the prime minister to apologise to the whole country for the "chaotic" past 24 hours, and for his "grubby attempt to cover up for the misdemeanour of his friend".
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The Commons Standards Committee concluded last week that Mr Paterson had misused his position as an MP to benefit two firms he worked for, after a damning report on his behaviour by standards commissioner Kathryn Stone.
They recommended he be suspended from the Commons for 30 sitting days – a sanction that could also lead to a recall petition in his constituency, and the possibility of him facing a by-election.
Such recommendations – which have to be signed off by MPs – are usually accepted without much discussion.
But on Wednesday, the government ordered its members to vote for an amendment to halt Mr Paterson's case and to rejig the standards system.
Opposition parties accused the Conservatives of corruption and sleaze, saying they were just looking out for their own MP, and Labour, the SNP and the Liberal Democrats refused to take part in any new process.
On Thursday morning, Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg announced a u-turn, saying no new process would go ahead without cross-party support and any changes would not be made retrospectively in Mr Paterson's case.
A spokesman for Boris Johnson said the PM had "recognised the strength of feeling on all sides of the House around the issue and changed his mind when it became clear that a cross-party consensus on the changes was not possible".
But Labour's Sir Keir said Mr Johnson "must explain how he intends to fix the immense harm he has done to confidence in the probity of him and his MPs".
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Mr Paterson said it was a "painful decision" to resign but "the right one".
He said the past few days had been "intolerable", claiming he had seen people – including MPs – "publicly mock and deride" the death of his wife Rose, who took her own life last year.
In an earlier statement, the former Northern Ireland secretary said the investigation into his conduct had been "a major contributory factor" in her death.
On Thursday, Mr Paterson added: "My children have therefore asked me to leave politics altogether, for my sake as well as theirs.
"I agree with them. I do not want my wife's memory and reputation to become a political football.
"Above all, I always put my family first."