Boris Johnson yesterday declined to rule out the possibility of a future bid to become Conservative leader and Prime Minister, but insisted he supports David Cameron and said rumours about his ambitions were "a distraction" from his job as Mayor of London.
Challenged to say that Mr Cameron was a better man than him to be PM, Mr Johnson would say only that it was "unverifiable". He said that "for the next few years" he only wanted to be Mayor, but added that "heaven knows" what he will do after his four-year term ends in 2016.
In an interview for Pienaar's Politics on BBC Radio 5 Live, Mr Johnson conceded that it was "entirely natural" for the media to discuss a narrative in which he was considered as being in competition with the PM.
Speculation that Mr Johnson, whose family hails from Exmoor, has his eye on Mr Cameron's job is dominating the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham, after a weekend poll suggested voters prefer the London Mayor to Mr Cameron by a wide margin. The survey, by pollsters Opinium for The Observer, gave Mr Johnson a net +30 rating compared to -21 for the Prime Minister.
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The Mayor arrived in Birmingham yesterday.
Mr Cameron insisted he did not feel threatened by the Mayor's popularity, and said he wanted Mr Johnson to move on to further top-level political jobs after he has finished his stint at City Hall.
"I have got the opposite of tall poppy syndrome," the PM told BBC1's Andrew Marr Show. "I like having other people in the Conservative Party who are popular, who get out there, talk our message and explain our vision and values."