Less than three weeks before the Budget, Conservatives told a meeting of the free market Institute of Economic Affairs that borrowing is at worrying levels.
Kwasi Kwarteng, the MP for Spelthorne in Surrey who chairs the Tory backbench "Free Enterprise Group", struck a particularly pessimistic tone.
Arguing that the international aid budget should not be exempt from cuts, he told the audience: "We are still borrowing £120m. We are not in a fit state to be spending money in this way."
Looking to the future, he added: "We have got to address this, and if we don't, what will happen is that we will have another government which will probably not address it and we will end up being a basket case.
"I'm quite happy to say that publicly. This is a big, big problem, and unless we can actually man up and deal with it, I think we've got big problems ahead of us."
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