Boris Johnson has been urged to tell the public some "difficult home truths" about the economic damage unleashed by the Covid pandemic.
Tory ex-Chancellor Philip Hammond urged the Government to ditch "very extravagant" promises from its manifesto ahead of next week's Budget.
Rishi Sunak , the new occupant of No 11, is expected to extend Covid support until the end of lockdown in June in his financial statement.
This is set to include £30bn on extending the furlough jobs support scheme and business relief, as well as the Universal Credit uplift and the stamp duty holiday.
But there are also likely to be tax hikes, including putting corporation tax up to around 24% and an increase in capital gains tax.
Tory MPs threatening rebellion over tax rises on business have been warned they face the chop.
No 10 says Budget votes will be a "confidence issue", meaning any rebels risk losing the party whip.
Former PM David Cameron warned the Chancellor that tax rises "wouldn't make any sense at all" as the nation opens back up from lockdown.
One Government source said: "Action needs to be taken now, not in November and not next year, but now.
"The Budget will make a start on that stabilisation. It can't go the whole way in one fiscal event but it will make a start."
The Government has already spent almost £300bn on coronavirus measures – dramatically more than the £12bn announced by Mr Sunak in his first Budget.
The Treasury is also expected to open a new office in the North in a symbolic move designed to show its commitment to the region.
But Lord Hammond urged the PM to level with the public amid rising unemployment and the economy being hit by the biggest annual decline on record.
He told the BBC: "My fear is that, as a populist government, giving money away is always easier than collecting it in."
"Not all of those [manifesto] commitments can now sensibly be delivered on.
"That's going to be a big challenge for a Government that regards its short-term popularity as very, very important."
The ex-minister added he was "not sure" the "top leadership" has the "appetite for being unpopular in order to do the right thing".
New Treasury figures show that 4.7m workers are on furlough – double the 2.8m at the end of October – but below last May's 8.9m peak.
Accommodation, food services and retail were among the worst hit, raising fears of redundancies when the taxpayer support – which has cost £53.8bn so far – eventually ends.
Labour warned this week that Mr Sunak's "economically illiterate" plans risk "crushing" Britain's pandemic recovery under a "mountain of debt".
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