Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott may be prepared to quit over the latest allegations against him, a close friend and former Midland MP said last night.
But Mr Prescott's aides swiftly dismissed the suggestion from Lord Snape - ex-Labour MP for West Bromwich East Peter Snape - and insisted it was "business as usual".
A spokeswoman for Mr Prescott would not disclose what the deputy premier had done yesterday, except to say he had a "series of meetings".
She said no details of his movements today could be given for "security reasons".
But one member of the Government said: "John used to have a role. I just don't know what it is now."
And Lord Snape said: "I hope he stays where he is. I just think that he's had a pretty torrid time recently.
"I hope he fights on, but I could well understand if, like most human beings, he said he'd had enough."
Mr Prescott bowed to pressure to enter his stay at an American tycoon's ranch in the House of Commons Register of Members' Interests.
A spokesman announced he had decided to make the entry to ensure there was no doubt that he had "acted at all times with integrity" in his meetings with Philip Anschutz, who is seeking to open a super-casino in the Millennium Dome.
The announcement came shortly after Westminster's sleaze watchdog launched a preliminary inquiry into allegations surrounding the trip to the ranch in Colorado last July.
Standards Commissioner Sir Philip Mawer will write to Mr Prescott asking for his response to claims that the visit may have involved a conflict of interest and should have been entered in the Register of Interests.
Having considered a complaint from shadow Culture Secretary Hugo Swire, Sir Philip decided there was enough substance to warrant further investigation, a spokeswoman said.
On Tuesday Mr Prescott said he did not register his stay on the ranch, accompanied by a number of civil servants, because it was part of an official visit to the US.
Although Mr Anschutz declined an offer of payment for the stay, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister later made a donation from public funds to a charity of his choice to cover it.
There is a growing view among Labour MPs that Mr Prescott may have outlived his usefulness to the Government.
But No 10 insisted he retained Prime Minister Tony Blair's full confidence.
Mr Blair's official spokesman went on: "John Prescott fulfils a very valuable role in liaising between members of the Cabinet, in chairing Cabinet committees and in resolving difficult issues which are inter-departmental.
"The experience John Prescott has brought in his time in government gives him a unique role in resolving such matters.
"The important point, as Mr Prescott's office has pointed out, is that Mr Prescott was not involved in deciding the planning application, he's not involved in licensing individual casinos and it is important that you contact potential investors.
"The Prime Minister believes it is important that his Ministers meet large investors in this country on a regular basis."
In the Commons yesterday, Speaker Michael Martin blocked an attempt by Conservative deputy chief whip Andrew Robathan to quiz Mr Blair about Mr Prescott.
Mr Martin cut Mr Robathan off in mid-sentence as he launched into his question because Sir Philip had commenced an inquiry.