British Prime Minister Gordon Brown insisted on Wednesday that a member of his cabinet was standing down for family reasons and that her departure had nothing to do with his politics.
Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly, a mother of four children aged five to 11, had informed Brown in May that she would quit in the next cabinet reshuffle, he said.
But the timing of the announcement risked overshadowing a well-received speech by Brown on Tuesday to the annual conference of his Labour Party, which appears to have won him a temporary respite from critics within the party.
Brown said he understood Kelly's desire to spend more time with her family.
"She wanted to be with them as they grow up. I understand it," he told GMTV. "She has missed several years and she wants to be with them as much as possible.
He added: "I do understand as a father myself."
Speaking to the BBC, Brown said her decision was "nothing to do with politics".
Brown has faced calls for a leadership contest from a dozen backbench lawmakers.