Boris Johnson was battling on after former Cabinet minister David Davis demanded “in the name of God, go” - the most senior Conservative to call for his resignation.
The call, made in the Commons during PMQs, followed the defection of Bury South MP Christian Wakeford from the Tory party to Labour, over the Downing Street party scandal.
And more Tory MPs are in discussions with the Labour Party about further defections, ITV News understands, with the plot being referred to as "Operation Domino".
But the prime minister was said to have been handed a fragile reprieve by some colleagues considering forcing a no confidence vote until they hear the result of senior civil servant Sue Gray’s inquiry into events in No 10 during restrictions.
Though a senior Conservative MP has now accused Number 10 of "blackmail", saying staff had threatened him and other colleagues over their opposition to Boris Johnson.
Political Correspondent Carl Dinnen wraps up a testing Wednesday for the PM
So far, the only person to resign since reports of parties emerged is Allegra Stratton, Boris Johnson’s former press secretary, who joked about holding a Christmas party in Number 10 in December 2020.
Asked if there should be more consequences for those found breaking Covid rules at Downing Street, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said “absolutely.”
“We’ve got to wait for the investigation, once that’s complete we will all have the facts, the prime minister will respond," he told ITV News.
“In answer specifically to your question ‘should there be more consequences’ – of course, if the report identifies factually that people have been engaged in wrongdoing and certainly if they’ve been breaking the rules, of course there should be consequences, absolutely.
“This was at the heart of government. These rules were there for all of us to follow, but the last thing you would expect is that someone in Downing Street hasn’t been following the rules, so of course there should be consequences if that is backed up by the report when the facts are established.”
'Of course there should be consequences, absolutely'
A round-up of a woeful Wednesday for the PM:
Former Brexit secretary Mr Davis called for the Prime Minister’s resignation in a Commons intervention on Wednesday before later warning the party faces “dying a death of 1,000 cuts” if they do not act swiftly to oust him.
Minutes before Prime Minister’s Questions, Bury South MP Christian Wakeford dramatically switched sides, refusing to “defend the indefensible” over alleged breaches of Covid rules.
No 10 said Mr Johnson will fight any no-confidence vote launched against him and insisted he expects to fight the next general election.
The Prime Minister went into the Commons with his premiership on life support, as a group of Tories who won their seats in the 2019 election landslide appeared to have lost faith in their boss.
The anger from a former minister first elected in 1987 and Mr Wakeford, elected to the so-called Red Wall seat of Bury South two years ago, showed the breadth of the fury in the party.
Seven Tory MPs have publicly called for Mr Johnson to go, far short of the 54 required to submit letters of no confidence to the backbench 1922 Committee. The number would have been eight but Mr Wakeford’s defection means the tally is unchanged.
What was the PM's reaction?
In the Commons, Mr Johnson apologised again for attending a rule-breaking party in the No10 garden on May 20, 2020. But, once again, he insisted he believed it was a work event and said: “Nobody told me that what we were doing was against the rules”
At least 10 times the PM referred back to Ms Gray's inquiry into multiple parties confirmed, and alleged, to have taken place at Downing Street during Covid restrictions.
He said it was for Ms Gray’s inquiry “to come forward with an explanation of what happened”, while facing particular scrutiny over the “bring your own booze” on May 20.
Former aide Dominic Cummings had alleged Mr Johnson was aware of the event in advance and was warned it broke the rules in place at the time.
What next for Boris Johnson?
Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg sought to downplay Mr Davis’s intervention, describing the former minister as having “always been something of a lone wolf”.
“No-one would call David a lightweight, he’s a very serious political figure, but his comments today were too theatrical,” he added.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps suggested there should now be a by-election in the constituency, telling ITV’s Peston Mr Wakeford “should front up to his constituents”.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid told a Downing Street press conference he “fully supports the Prime Minister” as awaits the Gray report.
Mr Javid, who ran against Mr Johnson for the leadership in 2019, did not rule out another bid in future, saying: “We have a leader. We have a Prime Minister.”