Former British Prime Minister David Cameron, who resigned from the top job in September in the wake of the Brexit referendum, has announced he will also step down as a member of parliament.
“It isn’t really possible to be a proper backbench MP as a former prime minister,” he told ITV.
“Everything you do will become a big distraction and a big diversion from what the government needs to do for our country.
“I support (prime minister) Theresa May, I think she’s got off to a great start, I think she can be a strong prime minister for our country and I don’t’ want to be that distraction.”
The decision was made with a “heavy heart”, Mr Cameron said.
Before the referendum he had said he would stay on as prime minister whatever the result, and after he said he would remain as an MP. But on Monday Mr Cameron, 49, said he was “going to have to start to build a life outside Westminster”.
He claimed not to have made any “firm” decision on his next move, but he wanted to continue to contribute to public service and “to continue campaigning on local, national and international issues that were part of my prime ministership where I think we made progress but there’s a lot more to be done”.
He said it was just a coincidence that the decision came on the day parliament was due to start debating a government policy to re-introduce selective grammar schools, a policy rejected under Cameron’s leadership.
“It has nothing to do with any one particular issue,” he said.
Mrs May had been “very understanding” about his decision, he said.
“I support her, I support what she’s doing, I think she’s gotten off to a cracking start,” he said.
It would be “difficult, perhaps impossible” for him to play a full role in parliamentary life as a former prime minister because of the risk he would be “an enormous distraction from what the government’s doing”.
“Obviously I’m going to have my own views about different issues, people know that, and that’s really the point,” he said.
“I don’t want to be that distraction… whatever the issue as a former prime minister being a backbench MP I think it is difficult not to be the distraction, the diversion and therefore build the sort of reputation for yourself in politics I don’t really want to have.”
He said it was for historians to work out his legacy, but he would be remembered for keeping a pledge to hold a Brexit referendum, when many thought he wouldn’t.
People would also remember his leadership and his government for creating a stronger economy and for important social reforms such as gay marriage, he said.
“The Conservative party went from being in the doldrums and getting beaten to being a modernising and winning force.”
A by-election will be held in his former seat of Witney.