Boris Johnson's deputy has insisted the prime minister is "on great form" despite reports that Conservative MPs have written to their party asking for him to be replaced.
A dozen Tory MPs are said to have written to the chair of the Tory backbench committee, with one senior MP telling The Sun newspaper: “There is real anger. He has until Spring to get back on track or he will be in real trouble."
Under Conservative party rules a leadership contest is triggered if 15 per cent of sitting Conservative MPs write a letter to the chair of the 1922 committee demanding one – a figure which currently equates to 54 letters.
Meanwhile Tory whips told the Telegraph there was an "assumption" that no confidence letters had been written, while another suggested "the usual suspects" were calling for the PM to go.
"It will not get anywhere near the 50 letters you would need, but it does cause angst," the whip told the newspaper.
On Wednesday morning Dominic Raab, the deputy prime minister, defended Mr Johnson's approach, despite criticism over a botched speech to business leaders and the mishandling of issues like corruption.
"The Prime Minister is on great form. The reality is people speak about speeches in the Westminster village, the gossip and all the rest of it," he told BBC News – referring to Mr Johnson's Monday speech to the CBI.
"It's the job of Westminster commentators to pick up on one anonymous source from wherever they found it to criticise the Government of the day, that's fine."
Mr Raab insisted the Prime Minister was "focused on the job at hand", adding? "The Prime Minister is an ebullient, bouncy, optimistic, Tiggerish character and he livens up his speeches in a way that few politicians past and present have done but actually there is a steeliness to him as a Prime Minister and indeed his team, and we work as a team."
The prime minister's deputy said reports about the chaotic speech were only "Westminster tittle tattle" and said he approved of Mr Johnson's "glowing references to Peppa Pig".
Under Tory rules letters of no confidence are handed confidentially, so no accurate tally of how many are submitted is available.
Stories to have rocked confidence in Mr Johnson's leadership include his speech to the CBI, a rebellion over social care, clashes over the government's rail plan, and two weeks of bad headlines over sleaze and corruption.
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