Boris Johnson took the Conservative Party Conference by storm last night as he professed his loyalty to David Cameron but urged the Government to launch a huge house-building programme.
The Mayor of London told a packed fringe meeting of about 1,500 Tory activists that the party was doing "a fantastic job" in government and was on course to win a majority at the 2015 election once the economy recovered.
But he called for the Government to do more to build houses for middle-income families, recalling that the Tories won elections when they did so. "We need to look after their interests," he said.
He backed a return of grammar schools, which is not government policy, and spoke out against plans for a third runway at Heathrow airport. "It is not going to happen. We need a better solution," he said, calling for either expansion at Stansted or a new Thames Estuary airport.
Mr Johnson tried to play down speculation that he was manoeuvring to be the next Tory leader. "No one should have any cause to doubt my admiration of David Cameron," he said, pointing out that he urged Mr Cameron to run for the party's top job in 2005 as one of his early supporters.
The Mayor was mobbed by photographers and television cameramen as he arrived at Birmingham New Street station. During another media scrum at the Hyatt hotel, he was asked whether he was in Birmingham to make trouble for Mr Cameron. "I'm here to support the party," he replied.