Prime Minister David Cameron was on Tuesday forced to offer a grovelling apology in a bid to buy peace with the increasingly belligerent right-wing of his Tory party as the revolt against his leadership intensified with more than 100 rebel MPs, including ministers, voting against a government bill to legalise gay marriages.

It was the second time in less than a week that he faced humiliation at the hands of his own MPs in a Commons vote. Last week, they demonstrated their anger by voting against the Queen’s Speech because it did not contain a Bill which would have enshrined in law Mr. Cameron’s promise to hold an “in-out” referendum in 2017 on Britain’s EU membership.

His apology came after a senior party figure and a close friend of his was reported calling local activists as “mad, swivel-eyed loons”. The remarks, attributed to Tory peer and party fundraiser Lord Andrew Feldman , caused outrage with critics citing them as further evidence of how “out of touch” he was with ordinary voters.

The gay marriages legislation survived with the last-minute support of Labour MPs in what the Tory rebels described as a “grubby deal” accusing the Prime Minister of “railroading through” an unpopular measure.