The Chancellor said he would await the results of an inquiry before offering any assistance
The attempted apology in the House of Commons on Wednesday was seen as the least bad option available to the PM, but he might have hoped for a more encouraging response from his own cabinet.
Boris Johnson would have started his day with a barrage of worrying headlines on Thursday morning.
Bad news about the Conservatives falling further behind in the polls, with YouGov’s latest poll showing the Tories 10 points behind Labour, may have been expected by the Prime Minister’s inner circle.
But it will be the muted and very cautious support Mr Johnson has received belatedly from Rishi Sunak that should worry No10 the most.
It took the Chancellor nearly nine hours to produce a half-hearted tweet in support of his boss, saying: “I was visiting all day today to continue working on our #PlanForJobs and meet MPs to discuss the energy situation.
“The Prime Minister has rightly apologized and I support his request for patience while Sue Gray carries out her investigation.”
In those two short sentences, Mr Sunak effectively caught the Prime Minister’s eye and sent a signal to the rest of the Tory party that his support was conditional – it said ‘watch this space’.
Mr Sunak’s intentions to become leader are well known, and he has been known to court the support of MPs on the sidelines. So has Secretary of State Liz Truss, who has held private dinners with backbenchers and “Fizz with Liz” events while building her base of support.
The blatant maneuvering has angered some in Cabinet, sparked infighting within the highest levels of government and left Mr Johnson struggling to lead an increasingly unruly top team.
None of this is a recipe for well-functioning government and only complicates Mr Johnson’s task of getting his government back on track.
All eyes are now on whether any cabinet ministers decide to cut ties with the PM and resign over BYOB Party No. 10, with Mr Suank being the closest scrutiny.
A move is unlikely until the results of Sue Gray’s investigation into the various parties are complete. But it seems Mr Johnson’s position is most vulnerable now more than at any other time.