Cabinet ministers have rallied behind Boris Johnson this morning amid fears he will soon face a confidence vote.
Priti Patel, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Nadine Dorries have all staged public interventions to gather support behind the prime minister.
Other allies have accused the MPs trying to topple Johnson of being “self-indulgent, narcissistic and contemptuous”.
It comes after more than 40 Tory MPs publicly questioned Johnson’s position and dozens admitted submitting letters of no confidence.
Westminster insiders predict the prime minister could face a vote on his leadership as early as next week.
Cabinet ministers on the offensive include the home secretary who told Tory plotters to “forget it”.
Patel told the Daily Mail: “Writing letters is a sideshow, quite frankly, rather than focusing on the real challenges that we have to find solutions to.”
Meanwhile, Brexit opportunities minister Rees-Mogg claimed the PM was an “enormous electoral asset” and added: “The idea that a change of leader would help the Conservatives is for the birds. It would be the most divisive thing that the party could do.
“It’s an exceptionally silly thing to want to try and open the door to Sir Keir Starmer assuming he manages to survive.”
Johnson loyalist and culture secretary Nadine Dorries told the BBC there was a campaign behind the scenes to remove the PM for “individual reasons to do with personal ambition”.
An anonymous ally in The Times went one step further, saying: “Would it not be the most self-indulgent, narcissistic and contemptuous thing to decide that now is the time for another three months of Conservative navel-gazing?”
Meanwhile, Johnson has reportedly delayed plans for a summer cabinet reshuffle as he battles the backbench revolt, according to The Telegraph.
The PM was expected to shake-up his top team after the May local elections but the plans are on ice in a bid to keep ministers onside.
To mount a leadership challenge, 54 Tories have to submit a letter to Sir Graham Brady who leads the 1922 committee of backbench Conservative MPs.
Only Brady knows how many have submitted letters and he keeps it a secret until the threshold is reached.
Yesterday, Tory elections guru Lord Hayward predicted Johnson will face a vote of confidence in his leadership.
He said the prime minister was “in trouble” as an increasing number of Tory MPs submit letters of no confidence.
“The number is definitely rising. When it will cross the line is good speculation. I think it will,” he told Sky News.
He said a vote of confidence, even if you win, is not a guarantee that you will continue as the party leader because losing support is an “attritional process”.
Hayward added: “It’s worth remembering Theresa May won a vote of confidence, in theory that gave her another year, but she was out of office within seven months.”
May’s former chief of staff Gavin Barwell warned there was “zero evidence” Johnson can regain the public’s trust even if he were to win in a vote of confidence among Tory MPs.
Lord Barwell, who was in No.10 when May faced her challenges to leadership, said if Johnson were to “narrowly win” it would be the “worst outcome for the Conservative Party”.
Barwell tweeted: “His supporters argue that given time he can regain his standing, but there is zero evidence of this so far. He has done well on Ukraine, but it has made no difference to the numbers saying he should go.”