The first rumour to go swirling around Westminster after Alan Johnson's sudden resignation was that it was another case of a politician caught philandering.
The rumour was correct only in one limited sense. Like many other politicians before him, Alan Johnson resigned rather than have a sex scandal burst over his head while he was still in office, but, unusually, he was sinned against.
Two tabloid newspapers, the Daily Mail and The Sun, had picked up a tip from the ever-leaky Metropolitan Police that there was an internal investigation of one of Mr Johnson's former close-protection officers, who allegedly had an affair with Laura Johnson, the wife of the man he was supposed to be protecting.
Alan Johnson's ex-bodyguard was suspended last night over allegations that he had an affair with the former shadow chancellor's wife.
Close protection officer Pc Paul Rice guarded Mr Johnson when he was Home Secretary. He is thought to have worked for Theresa May since she took over at the Home Office last May. In a statement, the Metropolitan Police said: “A Metropolitan Police Service Specialist Operations Police Constable has today, Friday 21 January, been suspended from duty pending the outcome of the Directorate of Professional Standards (DPS) investigation into allegations reported in the media regarding an inappropriate relationship.
“The matter was referred by the MPS Specialist Operations Unit to the DPS on 20 January. A thorough investigation is now under way. As the allegation is subject to investigation, we are not able to comment further at this stage.”
It is thought that both newspapers had been given the tip in exchange for a promise that they would not publish until the officer had been disciplined, so police would not be embarrassed by having to admit that a wayward colleague was still involved in highly sensitive work. Mr Johnson's resignation forced the story out earlier than their informant wanted.
Unofficially, a source at the Met said: “Everything will hinge on whether or not the relationship started while he was still part of Johnson's protection team and whether he was conducting the affair when he was on duty.
“If the answer is yes to either of those things then that is career-threatening. But if the relationship started only when he was no longer looking after Johnson, then I'm not sure it will be considered a problem.”
Mr Johnson told Ed Miliband on Monday that he wanted to quit as shadow chancellor because of problems in his personal life. The Labour leader tried in vain to talk him out of his decision.
His departure was met with real regret in Westminster, where he was popular not least because of his background, which is unusual for a politician. Aged 60, he worked for 19 years as a postman and 10 years as an official of the postal union, the UCW, before entering Parliament in 1997. He was untouched by the expenses scandal, and was seen by many — though not himself — as a potential Prime Minister.
David Cameron said: “Obviously, I am very sorry for Alan because he has given a huge amount of service in public life, on the frontline in public life. He's one of the more cheerful and optimistic characters in politics. I am sure he will go on doing a good job for his constituents and being an MP and I hope that he is able to sort out all the things that he wants to.”
Labour's deputy leader Harriet Harman described his resignation as “a real loss to frontline British politics”.