David Cameron will travel to the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham this weekend under pressure from both his backbenches and within his cabinet to do more to satisfy the right-wing base of his party.
Former defence secretary Liam Fox warned the PM on Friday that Tory MPs are more than prepared to stage "huge rebellions".
There is no serious threat to Cameron's leadership, but many of his backbenchers are in a surly mood - increasingly unhappy with life in bed with the Lib Dems and less content to accept coalition as an excuse for failing to persue a more right-wing agenda.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph today, Liam Fox said Conservative supporters believed the party was "dominated by the political agenda of a metropolitan elite" and that the leadership needed to reconnect with its grassroots.
He also said that dissatisfaction with Britain's membership of the European Union was causing "alienation" among voters.
"The potential share of the Conservative vote sitting in the Ukip column of opinion polls should give us cause for real concern," he said.
In a separate interview also published today, the former defence secretary warns the prime minister that his backbench MPs are not going to be easy to control as they do not care about "the trappings of power."
"When I was elected it would have been unthinkable to have such big rebellions on issues such as Europe or House of Lords reform," he told PublicService.co.uk. "They were huge rebellions. So it is a different dynamic now and this parliament is very different from previous parliaments."
He added: "I think it is a great thing. It's a really healthy, positive development that we have got people in parliament who know why they were sent and what they have come to do. They are policy driven and tougher because they worry less about the trappings of power."
And he rejects the suggestion Cameron has had to throw scraps the way of troublesome backbenchers, such as killing Lords reform, in order to "appease", arguing the right-wing are not in a minority.
"If the analysis is correct and the majority of the 2010 intake, who are the majority of the party, are on the right of the spectrum, I would say that makes the government more representative. I would not say it is appeasing anyone."
Writing in The House magazine today, backbencher Nick De Bois said Cameron's inner-circle needed to stop viewing Tory MPs as "enemies".
"Far too many Conservative MPs are seen as obstacles to be overcome or a reactionary hold on a progressive party, rather than minds ready to debate and campaign," he said.
Cameron is also under pressure from within after his newly promoted justice secretary Chris Grayling to pull more EU-style "veto moments" out of the bag to satisfy core Conservative voters.
"I do not believe we can win the next election if we have not got our supporters behind us," he told same magazine. "To win a general election, you have got to have people who are broadly in the Conservative family together united behind us.
"I think that’s something we have to work to do. It’s more difficult in a coalition because inevitably there are things we cannot do that we’d like to do."
As well as a restless parliamentary party, Cameron is also having to fight for status with Boris Johnson, who shows no sign of scaling back his criticisms of the prime minister at a time when Labour have gained a substantial lead in the polls
The London mayor, who threatens to outshine Cameron in Birmingham with his own "victory" rally and keynote address - on the prime minister's birthday of all days - yesterday accused the government of overseeing an "economic catastrophe".
And The Sun reports today that Boris has turned down Cameron's invitations to join him for weekend breaks at his official country mansion, Chequers.
A friend of the mayor told the tabloid: "he doesn’t want to play happy families with someone he struggles to respect”.Suggest a correction