Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries has accused fellow Conservative MPs of staging a “coup” against Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Ms Dorries has been one of the prime minister’s most ardent supporters, sticking by him even as support for his leadership collapsed at Westminster.
“I was quite stunned that there were people who thought that removing the prime minister who won the biggest majority that we’ve had since Margaret Thatcher in less than three years,” Ms Dorries told BBC's Panorama.
“Just the anti-democratic nature of what they’re doing alone was enough to alarm me.
“And for me, it was a coup”.
Ms Dorries had made the same claim on Monday, when she criticised those who moved against Mr Johnson.
“Fourteen million people voted for the prime minister — and a group of MPs, ministers, the chancellor, his sitting chancellor, via what is effectively a coup, removed him,” she told GB News.
Ms Dorries has thrown her weight behind Foreign Secretary Liz Truss in the Tory leadership contest that will select Mr Johnson’s successor at No 10.
She has led an attack on Ms Truss’s rival Rishi Sunak, whose resignation as chancellor last week is seen by Johnson allies as key in ending the prime minister’s grip on power.
Ms Dorries accused Mr Sunak’s campaign team of using the “dark arts” after claims it tried to “siphon off” votes to ensure Jeremy Hunt cleared the threshold to enter the contest because they believed Mr Sunak would beat him in a run-off vote of party members.
Sajid Javid, whose resignation as health secretary came within minutes of Mr Sunak’s, triggering a mass ministerial exodus that led to Mr Johnson admitting his time was up, denied the move was co-ordinated.
“We hadn’t had any single discussion about it whatsoever. I had a feeling that other people would follow,” Mr Javid told Panorama.
“He has no desire to put a straitjacket around himself, having to run in accordance with other people’s wishes,” he told LBC radio.