'Will you hop it!' Bouncing Boris faces his question time

Boris Johnson's first big policy announcement on the arts was made in his absence yesterday. He was to chair a seminar before a prestigious invited audience at the National Gallery, until he was sacked 48 hours earlier over events in his private life.

Boris Johnson's first big policy announcement on the arts was made in his absence yesterday. He was to chair a seminar before a prestigious invited audience at the National Gallery, until he was sacked 48 hours earlier over events in his private life.

Mr Johnson went jogging instead. He left John Whittingdale, the shadow Culture spokesman, as his stand-in to announce the Conservatives would end the "grand larceny" of Lottery money for health and education schemes. "We intend to restore the National Lottery to its original purpose," Mr Whittingdale told leading figures from the arts world.

At the same time, Mr Johnson was dodging the press photographers, who had camped outside his £1m family home in Highbury since dawn. Clearly trying to avoid being recognised, he went jogging in a baggy floral Bermuda shorts, a fawn-coloured fleece, and a fetching white bandanna decorated with the skull and crossbones.

He retreated inside when he saw the photographers. His wife Marina emerged and said he had left by another exit. But Mr Johnson was spotted down the street, and the photographers caught up. He told them: "I advise you all very strongly. Go for a run, get some exercise and have a beautiful day."

Challenged over whether he had misled his party leader, Michael Howard, over his alleged affair with the journalist Petronella Wyatt, Mr Johnson snapped: "No, I certainly didn't. Will you kindly hop it." But Mr Howard's aides were adamant that he had been sacked for lying to the leader and the chief whip, David Maclean. "Boris Johnson denied the affair to Mr Howard and also to the Chief Whip," Mr Howard's spokes-man said. "We do not recognise a right to lie for someone in public life, whatever the motive."

There were Tory divisions in over Mr Howard's behaviour. Nicholas Soames, the Tory defence spokesman, refused on television to endorse the sacking of Mr Johnson, a personal friend. One Tory front-bench ally of Mr Johnson said: "Prescott did far worse, and all Blair said was 'John is John'. Howard should have said, 'Boris is Boris'."

A former Shadow Cabinet minister said: "Boris should never have been appointed. It was a pathetic attempt at showing we have figures who are popular with the public on our front bench. All it has done is make us look a shambles."

In May, within hours of Mr Johnson being appointed, he announced his own manifesto for the arts. "I haven't cleared this with anybody, but here is what I think," he said. His plan included reallocating the radio bands for US defence systems in the UK to rock music, "so you can hear the Rolling Stones in Oxfordshire. I am fed up listening to treacly old Magic"; forcing Damien Hirst "and the rest of the gang" to explain to the nation what their modern art means, and a national poetry Olympiad.

The tousled blond MP for Henley, once represented by Lord Heseltine, showed his pulling power at the Tory annual conference. He was 45 minutes late for the arts fringe meeting, but the room was still packed.

He hinted he was planning to emulate the US tax system to give UK philanthropists tax breaks for charitable gifts of art during their lifetime, instead of waiting until they were dead. He also announced, on the train to Bournemouth, that the National Trust should be allowed to run its own lottery for the heritage. "I am skiing deeply off-piste on this," he admitted.

Yesterday, his run had come to an end, but few expect him to be silenced. His father Stanley, who is in the Brazilian rainforest, said: "He is in good heart. There is one thing you can be quite certain of, this is not the end of his political career."

* Lord Heseltine yesterday called for the Tory leadership rules to be changed after the election to remove the right of the party membership to choose the leader. He said Kenneth Clarke would have beaten Iain Duncan Smith in the leadership contest if the ballot had been restricted to Tory MPs.

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