Downing Street Covid parties: Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss meet with Tory MPs as leadership speculation looms over Boris Johnson

Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss have both been meeting Conservative MPs as speculation over Boris Johnson's leadership continues to mount and backbenchers openly debate who should replace him as Prime Minister.

The Cabinet ministers deny they are on manoeuvres and insist they are engaging with MPs as part of their normal duties. But growing numbers of senior Conservatives believe that even if Mr Johnson survives the fallout from "partygate", there is a serious risk of his being forced out if coming elections go badly.

The Chancellor has met more than 100 Tory backbenchers this week to discuss how to mitigate the cost-of-living squeeze in the face of rising inflation and energy bills.

A source close to Mr Sunak said living standards were the only topic discussed in the meetings. However, ministerial colleagues have accused him of being lukewarm in his backing for the Prime Minister – one briefed a newspaper that he was a "prancing pony" who was "pretty overt" about his leadership ambitions.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak delivering his Budget to the House of Commons in London. Picture: House of Commons/PA Wire

In a tweet on Wednesday evening, the Chancellor urged "patience" ahead of the inquiry into the parties which will be submitted by senior mandarin Sue Gray. An ally insisted his comments were "in line with other ministers" and that his trip to Devon which meant he missed Prime Minister's Questions had been planned for at least three months.

Ms Truss is understood to be attending a dinner with other Conservative MPs this weekend, although a source said it was not a formal engagement. The source added: "It’s normal for Cabinet ministers to meet MPs.”

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