Andy Coulson announced this morning that he has resigned as Downing Street communications chief, saying the continuing row over phone-hacking was distracting from his job.
Coulson has come under increasing pressure in recent weeks about the extent of phone hacking that took place while he was editor of the News of the World.
In a personal statement issued by Number 10, Coulson said he was “proud” of his work with David Cameron and the coalition.
“I can today confirm that I’ve resigned as Downing Street director of communications,’he said.
“It’s been a privilege and an honour to work for David Cameron for three-and-a-half years.
“I’m extremely proud of the part I’ve played in helping him reach No 10 and during the coalition’s first nine months.
“Nothing is more important than the Government’s task of getting this country back on its feet.
“Unfortunately, continued coverage of events connected to my old job at the News of the World has made it difficult for me to give the 110 per cent needed in this role.
“I stand by what I’ve said about those events but when the spokesman needs a spokesman it’s time to move on.
“I’ll leave within the next few weeks and will do so wishing the Prime Minister, his family and his brilliant and dedicated team the very best for what I’m sure will be a long and successful future in Government.”
Today’s announcement marks the second time Coulson has lost a significant job as a result of the phone-hacking scandal.
Coulson resigned from his job as the editor of The News of The World in 2007 in the wake of his former royal correspondent, Clive Goodman, and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire being jailed for accessing the phone messages of royal aides and celebrities.
Coulson has continually denied knowing anything of Goodman’s illegal activities but said he resigned as editor on the basis that it happened on his watch. News International always maintained that Goodman was working alone.
He was appointed as David Cameron’s spin-doctor later in 2007 and was, until today, a key member of the Prime Minister’s inner circle.
Cameron said in a statement: “I am very sorry that Andy Coulson has decided to resign as my director of communications, although I understand that the continuing pressures on him and his family mean that he feels compelled to do so.
“Andy has told me that the focus on him was impeding his ability to do his job and was starting to prove a distraction for the Government.
“During his time working for me, Andy has carried out his role with complete professionalism.
“He has been a brilliant member of my team and has thrown himself at the job with skill and dedication. He can be extremely proud of the role he has played, including for the last eight months in Government.
“I wish Andy all the very best for his future, which I am certain will be a successful one.”
Cameron’s comments follow him giving Coulson his backing earlier this week.
The Prime Minister told BBC Radio 4’s Today on Monday that Coulson was “extremely embarrassed” by the endless publicity and speculation about the extent of phone-hacking during his tenure as editor of the News of the World.
However, Cameron refused to confirm reports circulating last weekend that Coulson had already offered his resignation over the continuing row about phone-hacking.
The Prime Minister’s backing for Coulson came just days after the Director of Public Prosecutions ordered a new “comprehensive assessment” of all material collected by Scotland Yard linked to the phone hacking scandal.
That move was spurred by news of the suspension of News of the World executive Ian Edmondson over hacking claims and a continual drip of celebrities and other public figures launching civil actions against publisher News International over alleged hacking.
The Prime Minster went on to praise the manner in which Coulson ran the Number 10 communication’s team, saying it worked in a ‘very proper and transparent and decent way; that hasn’t always been the case in the past”.
Coulson has been the centre of endless speculation in recent months over how much he knew about phone-hacking while he was editing the News of The World and how widespread it was.
The timing of today’s announcement will spark claims that the Government is “burying bad news”, coming as former prime minister Tony Blair was giving evidence to the Iraq Inquiry and with the spotlight still on shadow chancellor Alan Johnson’s resignation.