Liz Truss’s allies have accused Nadine Dorries of acting as a mouthpiece for Boris Johnson after she launched a stinging attack on the new Prime Minister.
It comes after the former culture secretary said Ms Truss had made some "big mistakes" during her first weeks in office and does not have a mandate for her radical agenda.
Ms Dorries, who came out in support of Ms Truss during the early stages of the leadership race, said the Conservative Party faces a landslide defeat at the next election unless it changes course.
She also attacked Ms Truss for abandoning some of Mr Johnson’s key policies such as privatising Channel 4, reviewing the BBC's licence fee, introducing the Online Safety Bill and bringing forward new animal welfare legislation.
But supporters of the Prime Minister have hit back, saying that Ms Dorries’s outburst should be taken with a pinch of salt as she has allowed her loyalty to Mr Johnson to cloud her judgement.
'I'm not certain we can take her too seriously'
"I'm not certain we can take her too seriously on this front, she has allowed her personal loyalty to Boris to overshadow everything else," one backbench MP told The Telegraph.
"I think if Boris is already plotting his comeback as some suggest he could pick some better mouthpieces.
"There is no getting around the fact that her remarks were unhelpful. But I would be more concerned if it was coming from Jacob Rees-Mogg or Iain Duncan Smith - people who carry serious heavy weight status. They all remain firmly with her."
A former minister added: "There are all sorts of different theories about what kind of agent she is trying to be at the moment."
Meanwhile, some Tory MPs said they believed that Ms Dorries was already looking ahead to taking up a seat in the House of Lords.
Another former minister said: "She is probably thinking she might be going to the Lords in Boris Johnson's resignation honours."
One senior backbench MP added: "She implored people to be loyal to Boris, but her loyalty to Liz didn't last long. She was always more anti-Rishi than pro-Liz.
"At the end of the day we know she is in the resignation honours list for a peerage and I think she is rather keen promoting a general election for that reason."
Another backbencher even speculated that if Ms Dorries went to the Lords, Mr Johnson could stand for election in her seat rather than his own.
Ms Dorries’s Mid Bedfordshire seat had a majority of over 24,000 at the last election, a far wider margin than Mr Johnson’s majority of 7,210 in Uxbridge and South Ruislip.
Writing for The Times, Ms Dorries accused Ms Truss of abandoning some of Johnson's most prominent policies and said that plans to curb benefits increases were "cruel" and unconservative at a time when people were struggling to cope with the cost of living.
"Boris Johnson's Government was clear that benefits should rise with inflation; this must be right," she said.
"If it rises in line with wages that will mean a real-term cut for millions of people at a time when global costs are rising due to a pandemic and Putin's war. It would be cruel, unjust and fundamentally unconservative."
Ms Dorries added that the Government was "lurching to the right" and abandoning the centre ground to Labour.