THERESA May has lost her second cabinet minister in a week to a scandal, adding to the sense of unabated chaos at the top of the government.

Priti Patel belatedly quit as International Development Secretary after holding secret meetings with Israeli politicians and then misleading the Prime Minister about them.

Accused of going rogue and pursuing her own private foreign policy, the prominent Brexit campaigner was allowed to quit rather being sacked after being recalled from a trip to Africa.

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Priti Patel quits: Resignation letters in full

She resigned after a half-hour evening meeting with Mrs May in Downing Street, exactly a week after Sir Michael Fallon quit as Defence Secretary over alleged sexual misconduct.

The protracted nature of Ms Patel’s exit, after five days of mounting allegations and Downing Street’s failed attempt to draw a line under the episode, prompted claims that Mrs May had lost the authority to continue as credible prime Minister.

In an exchange of correspondence, Ms Patel offered a “fulsome apology” to Mrs May and the government, admitting her actions “fellow below the high standards that are expected of a Secretary of State” and below her own standards of “transparency and openness”.

In reply, Mrs May said Ms Patel should “take pride” in what she had achieved in her previous role and “in being the first British Indian cabinet minister”.

However she said that, given further details of her activity had emerged, “it is right that you have decided to resign and adhere to the high standards of transparency and openness that you have advocated”.

READ MORE: Theresa May under pressure to reveal what she knew about Israeli meetings

As she did last week after Mr Fallon’s resignation, the Prime Minister is expected to perform a “precision reshuffle” rather than rearrange her cabinet ahead of the budget.

Penny Mordaunt, the minister for disabled people, is already the bookmakers’ favourite.

In a letter to Mrs May, Labour deputy leader Tom Watson said Ms Patel’s behaviour had been “as clear a breach of the ministerial code, and of diplomatic protocol, as can be imagined, and the only surprise about her resignation is that it came so late”.

He also questioned whether the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Downing Street knew more about Ms Patel’s contacts in Israel than they claimed.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said: “This has been utterly humiliating for the Prime Minister. Mrs May couldn't manage a resignation without making a global shambles of it.”

LibDem deputy leader Jo Swinson said Ms Patel had been guilty of “an appalling error of judgment” and Number 10 still faced questions about its “complicity in this scandal”.

Ms Patel’s slow-motion downfall began last Friday when the BBC revealed she had held unauthorised meeting with Israeli politicians while on holiday in the country in August.

These had taken place without her officials present - a breach of government protocol - but Ms Patel had been accompanied by an influential lobbyist, Lord Polak.

READ MORE: Potential contenders as Priti Patel quits Cabinet post

As honorary president of Conservative Friends of Israel, Lord Polak is close to many party donors, fuelling speculation Ms Patel may have been working on a leadership bid.

The peer refused to answer questions last night, running into a hotel massage room to avoid the media.

Besides her freelance diplomacy, Ms Patel, 45, was undone by an ever-changing story.

She falsely claimed Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson knew of her actions in advance, then admitted he didn’t, and gave the impression only a handful of meetings were involved, before revealing there were 12, including one with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

She also strayed into extremely sensitive foreign policy areas, visiting the occupied Golan Heights, which the UK has refused to recognise for 50 years, and suggesting UK aid could be sent to the Israeli army there.

One Tuesday, after apparently escaping with a slap on the wrist from Downing Street, she flew to Africa on a three-day visit, only to be recalled when yet more meetings emerged.

Her return became a social media phenomenon, with 22,000 people at one point following her 4,240-mile journey on Kenya Airways via an online flight tracker.

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The final straw was her failure to declare she had met an Israeli minister at the House of Commons and a foreign ministry official in New York in September. According to one report, Ms Patel held the Commons meeting against her own department’s advice.

It also emerged Ms Patel’s junior minister, Alistair Burt, was on an official visit to Israel in August without knowing that his boss was conducting parallel meetings in secret.