Liz Truss “probably” still has the backing of her cabinet, the transport secretary said following a critical meeting on Tuesday morning.
Anne-Marie Trevelyan could not say whether cabinet was fully behind the beleaguered PM, fighting for her future at No 10 as Tory MPs deliberate over ways in which she could be replaced.
Ms Trevelyan made the comment when asked if Ms Truss had the support of cabinet, according to the Press Association, grinning at reporters as she made her way across Downing Street.
It comes as veteran Tory MP Sir Charles Walker – who has called on Ms Truss to quit – warned that the party could be out of power for 15 years if she leads them into the next general election.
“I don’t think the position is sufficiently recoverable with the current prime minister,” said the former vice-chair of the 1922 Committee said.
He told Times Radio that “the right person at the helm” might persuade the electorate “that we are a serious organisation, and if discarded at the next general election, we might be worth taking a look at in five or 10 years’ time”.
Asked what happens if Ms Truss stays, Sir Charles: “I think we’ll be out for 15 years. I think it’s that existential.”
Labour has a 36-point lead, according to the latest Redfield Redfield & Wilton. Ms Truss is almost as popular with the public as Prince Andrew, according to new YouGov polling which shows 80 per cent of the public hold an unfavourable view.
A majority of Tory members (55 per cent) now want Ms Truss to resign, with 83 per cent members she is doing badly as prime minister.
If the Tory leadership election were being run again now, 55 per cent of Conservative members would back Rishi Sunak, with only 25 per cent prepared to stick with Ms Truss.
Ms Truss has apologised for her “mistakes” – but pledged to lead the Tories into the next general election as she fights for her job.
She met Tory MPs in the One Nation group on Monday and said she was “sorry” for mistakes made, with many MPs expressing relief that Jeremy Hunt now appeared to be in charge of the economy.
She is expected to hold more meetings with Tory MPs this week as she tries to reassure despairing backbenchers that she understands the scale of the reversal needed.
Some MPs are hoping a flood of no confidence letters could persuade the 1922 Committee of backbenchers to change current rules which prevent a vote on her leadership for 12 months.
1922 Committee chair Sir Graham Brady is said to held a meeting with Ms Truss on Monday to update her on the current scale of backbench opposition. But the number of letters is unknown.
Meanwhile, Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary suggested Brexit was behind the UK’s economic “car crash”.
“The mini-Budget was a kind of spectacular failure of the whole concept of Brexit,” The airline he told a news conference in Rome
“The Remainers are coming back, the adults are taking charge again… we will return to some sensible economic policies,” he said – referring to Mr Hunt becoming chancellor.