Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings has left Downing Street carrying boxes amid reports he has quit his post earlier than expected.
The BBC reported Mr Cummings had stepped down from his role with immediate effect, rather than waiting for the end of the year.
The broadcaster said the controversial aide had spoken to the Prime Minister earlier on Friday and it was decided it was best for him to go immediately.
The news came amid a bitter power struggle in No 10, which saw the resignation of Mr Cummings’ fellow Vote Leave veteran Lee Cain earlier this week.
On Thursday night, Mr Cummings insisted to the BBC that “rumours of me threatening to resign are invented” after it was suggested he would exit in protest over the treatment of Mr Cain, who quit as communications chief.
But Mr Cummings said his “position hasn’t changed since my January blog” in which he said he hoped to be “largely redundant” by 2021.
Tory backbenchers urged No 10 to use the exit of the aide whose mid-lockdown trip to Durham cemented his notoriety as an opportunity to restore the values of “respect, integrity and trust”.
Senior Tory MP Sir Bernard Jenkin said it is time to restore “respect, integrity and trust”, which he said have been “lacking in recent months” between No 10 and Tory MPs.
“It’s an opportunity to reset how the Government operates and to emphasise some values about what we want to project as a Conservative Party in Government,” the chair of the Commons liaison committee told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“I’m not surprised in a way that it is ending in the way it is. No prime minister can afford a single adviser to become a running story, dominating his Government’s communications and crowding out the proper messages the Government wants to convey.
“Nobody is indispensable.”
Highly-publicised in-fighting at the heart of Government led to Mr Cain’s resignation on Wednesday.
He had been offered the post of chief of staff but a backlash among Tories and Mr Johnson’s inner circle sealed his departure.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth highlighted the strain being heaped on the NHS and the public by Covid-19 while “Downing Street is paralysed by the soap opera of these self-indulgent spin doctors,” adding: “It’s pathetic.”
His colleague on the Labour front-bench, David Lammy, said the departures are “like rats fleeing a sinking ship”.
“His legacy is one of bullying, deception, hypocrisy and hubris. The super-forecaster who ignored the pandemic. His damage is irreparable,” he added.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman, James Slack, who will replace Mr Cain when he leaves in the new year, continued to insist that Mr Johnson is not being distracted from the national crisis by the row.
“What the Prime Minister and the Government are focused upon is taking every possible step to get this country through the coronavirus pandemic,” he said.