The Daily Mail has apologised for a column written by consultant editor Andrew Pierce that claimed David Cameron told a meeting that he made a “terrible” mistake with his equal marriage policy.

Last week, the paper reported that the Prime Minister told senior Tory activists at a private meeting that he made a “terrible” mistake over equal marriage. The article’s headline, ‘I wish I hadn’t forced through gay marriage law admits Cameron’ was not true, the paper accepted.

Mr Pierce, who wrote the article is openly gay but opposed the introduction of same-sex marriage. In the article, he said that Mr Cameron 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, which has now been amended, claimed 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.”

Today, the Daily Mail apologised and said: “The headline of an article in last Thursday’s paper suggested that David Cameron had said at a meeting that he wished he hadn’t forced through gay marriage. Number 10 has since asked us to clarify that, while the Prime Minister regretted the furore it had caused within the party, he made clear that he did not regret its introduction.”

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.

Last week, Chancellor George Osborne compared equal marriage to the abolition of slavery.

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.