Downing Street has denied claims made in the Daily Mail that Prime Minister David Cameron told senior Tory activists at a private meeting that he made a “terrible” mistake over equal marriage.

Daily Mail journalist and columnist Andrew Pierce claims the Prime Minister made the admission “in a brutally frank series of exchanges with activists behind closed doors at the party conference”.

One local Tory association chairman told the paper: “Cameron was repeatedly and often forcefully challenged over gay marriage. He said he still believed that gay marriage was right but regretted the way he had forced it through Parliament. He was effectively saying he wished he had left it well alone. We wished he had too.”

The Daily Mail claims Mr Cameron was politely applauded when he revealed his regret over the policy.

But Number 10 has dismissed this as being false. Tory sources say that the PM actually received praise from the audience for defending equal marriage – and that only one audience member raised the issue.

A Downing Street spokesman told PinkNews.co.uk: “The account of the meeting is totally incorrect. As the Prime Minister said at the weekend, he does not regret allowing equal civil marriage, and believes that Britain is a more equal and fairer country to having done it.”

Yesterday, David Cameron listed Britain’s acceptance of people who are gay as one of many reasons to be proud of the country in his keynote speech at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester – although he failed to mention equal marriage.

On Monday, Chancellor George Osborne briefly touched upon same-sex marriage as an example of a “modern reformed Conservative Party” during his speech.

Last weekend, Mr Cameron dismissed claims made by journalist Matthew d’Ancona that the Prime Minister’s support for same-sex marriage provoked such a backlash from Tory party members that he almost wondered whether it was worth the cost.

“I don’t regret it. Britain is a more equal and fairer country for having done it,” the PM said on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.

Following Royal Assent of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill in June, Mr Cameron spoke of his pride at the achievement in an exclusive article for PinkNews.co.uk.

Hosting an LGBT reception at Downing Street in the same month, the Prime Minister told guests that he was never in doubt that the argument for equal marriage would be won.

The decision of the House of Lords to give the bill a larger majority than in the Commons in a key vote on 4 June was cited by the PM as an example of how the debate had shifted in society.

Meanwhile, in a further sign that the Prime Minister remains proud of equal marriage, he expressed delight that Conservative MP Mike Freer and Conservative peer Lord Jenkin had both been nominated for PinkNews’ Parliamentary Speech of the Year, as part of this month’s PinkNews Awards.

The category acknowledges key speeches by parliamentarians that were made in support of equal marriage – ahead of this year’s Royal Assent of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act.