Senior Conservatives will this week hold talks on a "rescue mission" that would see the swift removal of Liz Truss as leader, after the new chancellor Jeremy Hunt dramatically tore up her economic package and signalled a new era of austerity, local media reported.
A group of senior MPs will meet on Monday to discuss the prime minister's future, with some wanting her to resign within days and others saying she is now "in office but not in control". Some are threatening to publicly call on Truss to stand down after the implosion of her tax-cutting programme, The Guardian reported.
In a rearguard action to prop up the prime minister, her cabinet allies warned MPs they would precipitate an election and ensure the Tories were "finished as a party" if they toppled a second leader in just a few months, The Guardian reported.
However, support for Truss is also evaporating inside the cabinet, with members keeping in close touch with her critics. "She is in the departure lounge now and she knows that," said a former minister. "It is a case now of whether she takes part in the process and goes to some extent on her own terms, or whether she tries to resist and is forced out."
Between 15 and 20 former ministers and other senior MPs have been invited to a "dinner of grown-ups", convened by leading supporters of Rishi Sunak, to plan how and when to remove Truss and install Sunak and fellow leadership contender Penny Mordaunt as a unity pairing, The Guardian reported.
A source familiar with the conversations said: "They are just going to have to sit down and work things out. It now becomes a rescue mission for the Conservative party and the economy. That's where we are."
The battle over her future comes after an extraordinary round of interviews by Hunt, who said it had been wrong to 'fly blind' by announcing a raft of tax cuts without explaining how they would be funded. On Saturday night, he said Truss' mini-budget "went too far, too fast".