Government Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell has pulled out of the Conservative Party conference following claims that he called Downing Street police officers “plebs”.
A friend said he had informed Prime Minister David Cameron he would not be attending the gathering in Birmingham next week as he feared his presence would be a distraction.
"At the moment he is planning not to go to conference," the friend said. "It was his own decision. He doesn't want to be a distraction."
Although Mr Mitchell had not been expected to speak at conference, it is highly unusual for the party chief whip to stay away altogether.
While he has apologised over the altercation last month when he was prevented from cycling through the main gates of Downing Street, he has angered police by refusing to accept their account that he swore repeatedly at officers and called them "plebs".