The head of an inquiry into alleged sex abuse by powerful figures in British society has resigned after victims' groups said she was too close to a politician under scrutiny.

Fiona Woolf, lord mayor of London, said Friday that she had decided "to get out of the way" because she doesn't have the confidence of victims.

The inquiry was set up to investigate whether authorities from the 1970s onwards covered up abuse to protect politicians and other powerful people.

Victims' groups objected to Woolf's social ties to Leon Brittan, an interior minister in the 1980s, who was in charge of handling some abuse allegations at the time.

Woolf's predecessor as chairwoman, Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, resigned in July. Her late brother was the government's top legal adviser in the period under scrutiny.