Boris Johnson is scrambling to save his leadership by hosting drinks parties to mend fences with his furious backbenchers.
The PM is set to host 'awkward squad' Tory MPs at a Number 10 drinks reception on Tuesday - his third gathering in as many weeks - as he desperately bids to soothe anger among his own party.
MPs were left fuming over his mismanagement of the Owen Paterson scandal, broken promises over HS2 in the north and changes to the social care cap, which will hit former ‘Red Wall’ the hardest.
It comes as former ministers were reportedly calling for the PM to bring in a “heavy hitter” such as Australian spin doctor Sir Lynton Crosby to sharpen up his chaotic Number 10 operation.
The Influential 1922 Committee’s entire executive board descended on Number 10 on Thursday to meet with the PM, amid reports that as many as a dozen MPs had submitted letters of no-confidence in his leadership.
A source who attended the meeting insisted it was “scheduled for some time“, and that it was “normal that we would meet the PM three or four times a year.”
But another attendee told Bloomberg News it was an “honest conversation” about his recent difficulties.
And while the number of letters sent to chairman Sir Graham Brady is reported to be well short of the 54 needed to trigger a leadership contest, a Whitehall insider said the PM was "terrified" about the party turning on him.
Image:AFP via Getty Images)
The Sunday Mirror has been told many newer Tory MPs are still furious at the PM for trooping them through the voting lobbies to back his Owen Paterson sleaze stitch-up.
There has been a breakdown in trust between the PM and some members of the 2019 intake, who feel Mr Johnson put them in danger by making them the target of public anger just weeks after the murder of David Amess.
Another source said: "Boris is well aware of the damage he's done. He's terrified about the whips briefing against him."
They added: “MPs don't necessarily mind when it's just him that's in the s*** because as we've seen nothing sticks to him.
"But they're all in it together now, and that's turned a lot of formerly friendly people very nasty.
"And the polling is bad and going to get worse.”
Many ‘Red Wall’ MPs are also furious over his broken promises over HS2 in the north, and the scrapped ‘Northern Powerhouse Rail’ link between Liverpool and Leeds.
A Whitehall insider said MPs are concerned the string of blunders and broken promises has taken the shine off Mr Johnson’s image - and led to a slump in poll numbers that could lose them their seats.
“If that actually is solid, and sleaze gets worse and winter bites then there's speculation that there could be a relatively big poll lead for Starmer by the spring.
“That's scaring lots of Tories - red wall and beyond and putting Boris in real trouble.”
Mr Johnson started his run of Tuesday soirees two weeks ago, inviting these newest MPs for Downing Street drinks. Last week MPs who were elected in 2015 and 2017 were invited over.
And this Tuesday the Sunday Mirror understands the PM will host MPs elected in 2010 and before - which includes many of the so-called “awkward squad” - rebellious Tory MPs who are tiring of Mr Johnson’s “clown act.”
“Nobody’s laughing any more,” said one.
The Sunday Mirror understands a number of Tory MPs are waiting to see how Mr Johnson handles Tuesday’s reception before submitting their letters to Sir Graham.
A Whitehall insider said Mr Johnson had been motivated to try and win a second election, to prove he was not a “one hit wonder” - and could beat a Labour leader other than Jeremy Corbyn.
They added: “Maybe he's going to miss that chance now.”