The Prime Minister's "irrational" backing of beleaguered Culture Secretary Maria Miller over her expenses is damaging the party's election hopes, activists warned, as a poll suggested two in three Tory voters thought she should be sacked.
David Cameron has refused to bow to pressure from the public and within his party to drop his support for Mrs Miller - insisting she has "done the right thing".
More than 123,000 people have signed an online petition saying she should repay £45,000 or quit but Downing Street insisted there were also "plenty" of colleagues coming forward and supporting her.
They also said Mr Cameron would not be swayed by findings of another poll that suggested only 7% of voters backed his stance and that 69% of Tory supporters were among the 74% of voters who think he should have sacked Mrs Miller.
The ComRes survey was commissioned by Conservative Grassroots, an organisation founded by senior party activists which has mobilised local anger.
Maria Miller handed in her resignation today, saying the row over her expenses had become 'an enormous distraction'.
It is possible that the Chancellor had come to a different conclusion from the PM as to which way the Maria Miller crisis was going.
The son of a Pakistani immigrant, the newly-appointed Culture Secretary has been tipped by some as a future Conservative leader.