The pressure was too much for Maria Miller

Maria Miller Image copyright Reuters

She's gone. The pressure, it seems, was too much. In a letter to the prime minister, Maria Miller says that

"It has become clear to me that the present situation has become a distraction from the vital work this government is doing."

There is no reference to the row about her expenses claim let alone an expression of regret. Indeed, her words suggest that she is both hurt and angry referring to the support she has received from her mother and father and her role as a working mother.

The prime minister's reply indicates that he shares that view.

"I think it is important to be clear that the committee on standards cleared you of the unfounded allegations made against you, a point which has been lost in much of the comment in recent days."

He adds that he was very sorry to receive her letter, pays tribute to her work as culture secretary and adds that he hopes she may be able to return to government in due course.

This decision is a defeat for a minister who believes she has been found not guilty on the central charge of asking the taxpayer to pay for a home for her elderly parents.

It is a defeat too for the prime minister who backed her and was determined to face down press demands to remove the woman who oversaw the toxic debates about regulating the press and legalising gay marriage.

This we are told - as we always are - was her decision but it is one taken just hours before David Cameron was due to face first the Commons at Question Time and his own MPs in a private and potentially stormy meeting.