Liz Truss has been savaged by Tory MPs after a disastrous meeting with her backbenchers.
In a bid to win over her mutinous MPs, Truss on Wednesday evening addressed the Tory backbench 1922 Committee, including high-profile critics Michael Gove and Grant Shapps.
But one MP described her performance as “crap” while another told HuffPost UK she was “wooden”.
The showdown in Commitee Room 14 of the House of Commons came as the economic chaos sparked by Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-budget continued.
Truss told the MPs present that the government’s energy price guarantee would protect households and businesses from soaring bills this winter.
She called on her colleagues to “highlight the devastation that would have been caused to small business had we not acted”.
But her attempts to win over her own MPs failed, with one telling HuffPost UK that almost all of the questions she was asked were critical of the government.
One said: “She was crap and the atmosphere was pretty flat in the room. Even the whips couldn’t be bothered getting people to ask supportive questions.”
One backbencher said her remaining supporters were “libertarian Jihadists who are wrecking the party”.
Former minister Robert Halfon, the Tory MP for Harlow, told Truss she had “trashed blue collar conservatism” by weakening the government’s commitment to affordable housing and lifting the cap on bankers’ bonuses.
Another MP said: “I would say it was worse than anything Theresa May ever faced when she was leader.
“What was really noticeable was the failure of the whips to organise a Praetorian guard of supporters around her. There was only one mildly supportive question and the rest were hostile.
“There was clapping on tables when the government’s policies were criticised and groans when the PM was giving an answer on interest rates and saying they were going up around the world. Try telling that to voters who are seeing their mortgages go up.”
The MP added: “She was wooden, cardboard, lacking in empathy. It’s very bleak.
“It felt very sombre and the mood was a bit like ’what’s going to happen next to bring this to a conclusion?”
The meeting capped another difficult day for the prime minister after she endured a tough prime minister’s questions in which she stunned MPs by declaring she would not impose any spending cuts to pay for the government’s tax giveaways.