Jeremy Hunt has met Sir Graham Brady, chair of the powerful 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, as he prepares to face the parliamentary party after overhauling Liz Truss’s economic plan.
Treasury sources confirmed the meeting on Tuesday night, claiming it was a routine briefing ahead of the new chancellor’s 1922 appearance on Wednesday.
Sir Graham met Ms Truss on Monday, an encounter No 10 said was “pre-planned” and during which her lack of support from Conservative MPs likely came up.
The meeting between Mr Hunt, who is effectively in control, and the committee chair will have unnerved Tory MPs amid speculation over the number of letters of confidence Sir Graham has received.
As many as 100 Tory MPs were reportedly ready to submit letters to Sir Graham by the end of the weekend – before the extent of the new chancellor’s repudiation of Ms Truss’s agenda was known publicly.
Current rules means Ms Truss should be safe from a confidence vote for the first year of her leadership but Tory backbenchers are said to have been talking about axing the “grace period” in a bid to force out the prime minister.
Around two-thirds of the party’s nearly 360 MPs, roughly 240, would have to make clear they wanted the grace period rule changed before the committee would do so, a person familiar with deliberations told Bloomberg.
Sir Graham returned early from holiday in Greece on Monday, by which time three Tory MPs had publicly called for Ms Truss to leave. Two more have since joined them.
On Tuesday evening, the prime minister addressed a meeting of the European Research Group (ERG) of Brexiteer MPs, a right-wing faction among which she found sympathy. ERG chair Mark Francois said the meeting was “very positive”.
Ms Truss has lost the support of Tory members, who voted her into office just six weeks ago. A snap poll of party members released on Tuesday saw more than half say she should resign and 83 per cent say she was doing a bad job.