Conservative Party conference: Boris Johnson battles through media scrum

 

London Mayor Boris Johnson was mobbed by the media as he arrived in Birmingham for the Conservative Party conference.

Passers-by chanted "Boris! Boris!" as the grinning Mayor fought his way through ranks of TV cameras and photographers to leave New Street station.

And he was greeted by more reporters and cameramen at the Hyatt Hotel, where he was due to prepare for the first of two speeches over the next 24 hours.

Asked if he was in Birmingham to make trouble for Prime Minister David Cameron, Mr Johnson replied: "I'm here to support the party."

He ignored further questions from journalists as he was chased through the hotel, and at one point was trapped in front of the cameras after getting into a lift whose doors would not close.

Mr Johnson's arrival in Birmingham threatens to overshadow events in the conference chamber, after polls suggesting that he outstrips Prime Minister David Cameron in public popularity thanks to his re-election as Mayor and his much-applauded handling of the summer's Olympic Games.

He will this evening address a rally staged by the influential Conservative Home website under the triumphal banner "Re-elected and Olympotastic".

And tomorrow, he will deliver a keynote speech from the platform of the conference itself, buoyed by a survey by pollsters Opinium for The Observer which gave him a net +30 rating among voters, compared to -21 for the Prime Minister.

But rumours that Mr Johnson may be preparing the way for a future challenge for the Conservative leadership were given short shrift by veteran Cabinet minister Kenneth Clarke.

Mr Clarke told a meeting hosted by Channel 4 on the fringe of the conference: "If he really wants to be a prime minister for serious reasons and not just getting his picture in the paper more often, he really does have to settle down and demonstrate he can seriously deliver on some complicated subjects."

Mr Johnson used an article in the Daily Telegraph this morning to champion the plight of the "struggling middle" - working families with incomes ranging from £30,000 to £64,000 - particularly regarding issues like housing.

In the latest of a string of criticisms of Government policy, the Tory Mayor said: "They are not being helped. They are feeling utterly and understandably ignored. It is time to help them."

Mr Johnson yesterday declined an opportunity in a radio interview to say that Mr Cameron was a better Prime Minister than he would be, saying only that the question was "unverifiable".

PA

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