The last few days have been the toughest of my life, and I would like to thank all those friends, family and local residents who have sent me messages of support.
It has been a very emotional experience to find so many people willing to stand by me at this difficult time.
My problems have been caused by my unwillingness to be open about my sexuality, and not by any intention to exploit the MPs expenses system.
James Lundie and I were aware that we could have been far better off financially if I had been willing to be open about our relationship – but I was not.
I grew up at a time when homosexuality had only just been legalised, and when most people still thought it was wrong or shameful.
I decided, therefore, to keep my sexuality secret, and the further time went on the more difficult it seemed to be to tell the truth.
When the rules changed in 2006 to prevent MPs from renting from partners, I should probably have changed our arrangements. I could have done so without any financial cost, but getting a mortgage and buying a house together would have meant revealing our relationship – which I was not prepared to do.
James never used the parliamentary entitlement to travel for partners, and he is not covered by the parliamentary pension scheme or any financial entitlement that would result from formal recognition of “partnership”. That is why I thought it would be all right for him to be treated as just a friend, when actually we were much more than that.
I have paid a high price for trying to keep my sexuality a secret. Losing your privacy, your Cabinet job, and your perceived integrity within 48 hours isn’t very easy.
But I accept that I should have been more open, and should have set a better example as a public figure.
I will now need to take a few days to recover from the events of the last week, and I then intend to get back to my work as local MP. There are many people with far greater problems than I have, and they are entitled to expect me to get on with the job which I am paid to do.
I love my job as local MP, and it is the greatest job and responsibility which I will ever have. Over the weeks ahead I will want to understand whether I still have the confidence of my constituents, without which it would be difficult to continue my work.
I am, once again, grateful to the thousands of people who have written, e-mailed and phoned us with kind comments over the last few days.