Theresa May faces a “make-or-break” month after chaos in her Cabinet saw her lose a second top minister in a week.
After Priti Patel was effectively sacked on Wednesday, senior Conservatives told The Independent the Prime Minister has until Christmas to improve the Government’s performance.
Ms Patel was pushed out after she embarrassed Ms May by holding a series of unofficial meetings with top Israeli politicians, without telling Downing Street.
It appeared she would avoid losing her job after disclosing details of the meetings and apologising, but she then angered the Prime Minister when it emerged some details had been withheld.
It comes as two other cabinet members, Damian Green and Boris Johnson, are also in the spotlight, as pressure mounts to make progress in Brexit talks, amid the growing sexual harassment scandal and just days after Ms May forced Sir Michael Fallon out of his job following allegations of inappropriate behaviour.
One minister told The Independent the loss of her ministers did not in itself pose a terminal threat to Ms May’s Government, but argued that the direction of travel had to change.
The frontbencher said: “There is cumulative effect and there is a danger for the Prime Minister that she could be perceived as having lost control of events.
“That is a very difficult thing to regain once that perception is created.
“This next month to six weeks is make-or-break time. Not just domestically, not just with the EU withdrawal Bill and the Budget, but with the European Council in December and whether we get ‘sufficient progress’ in Brexit talks.”
The ex-international development secretary arrived at Downing Street at about 6pm on Wednesday for an hour-long face-to-face with the Prime Minister, having been ordered back to the country from Africa.
In a letter to Ms May published afterwards, Ms Patel said: “I accept that in a meeting with organisations and politicians during a private holiday in Israel my actions fell below the high standards that are expected of a secretary of state.
She added: “Now that further details have come to light, it is right that you have decided to resign and adhere to the high standards of transparency and openness that you have advocated.”
It first emerged last Friday that Ms Patel had travelled to Israel for a 13-day visit, which she described as a “holiday” paid for by herself.
During the trip she was accompanied in meetings by Lord Polak, president of Conservative Friends of Israel, and discussed departmental business.
It triggered accusations that she had ignored ministerial rules that she should tell the Foreign Office about overseas business and embarrassed Ms May who was kept in the dark about it for months.