UK Politics

Tory conference: Boris Johnson pledges loyalty to Cameron

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Media captionBoris Johnson: David Cameron is "doing exactly what is needed for this country"

London mayor Boris Johnson has pledged his loyalty to the prime minister, saying no one should "doubt my admiration for David Cameron".

The London mayor was greeted with a standing ovation as he made his first appearance at the Tory conference.

He hailed the London Olympics and hit back at claims he is out to get the better of the prime minister this week.

He later announced that members of the armed forces in uniform will be given free London Underground travel.

The mayor's appearance at the ConservativeHome fringe meeting - entitled "Boris 2012: Re-elected and Olympotastic" - was preceded by a promotional film entitled "Mission Imborrisible", featuring, among other things, footage of the London mayor trapped on a zip wire at an Olympic event in East London.

'Tough circumstances'

In a speech packed with self-deprecating jokes about previous conference appearances, when he was pelted with pork pies by journalists after criticising Jamie Oliver and mocked by "Austrian cyborg" Arnold Schwarzenegger via a video link, he spoke of his pride at London's successful hosting of the Olympic games.

But he also made a point of praising David Cameron, saying he had been among the handful of Conservative MPs to back Mr Cameron in 2005 when he was considering a leadership bid.

Banging the table for emphasis, Mr Johnson said that despite his occasional criticism of government policy, such as on Heathrow, "no one should have cause to doubt my admiration for David Cameron".

He said Mr Cameron was doing a good job "in tough circumstances" and "doing absolutely what is needed to clear up the mess Labour left".

In answer to questions from the audience, he voiced his support for "selective" education and grammar schools and called for more action to help middle income people who could not afford to get on the property ladder.

"Conservative governments get elected when they build enough homes for people to live in," he told the meeting.

At a second fringe meeting, Mr Johnson announced that members of the armed forces in uniform will get free Tube travel as a thank you for their role in protecting London during the Olympics.

On Tuesday, Mr Johnson will deliver a keynote speech from the conference platform, buoyed by an opinion poll for The Observer which gave him a net +30 rating among voters, compared to -21 for the prime minister.

He was earlier mobbed by the media as he arrived in Birmingham, with onlookers chanting "Boris! Boris!" as he battled through ranks of photographers to leave New Street station.

Asked if he was out to upstage David Cameron he said: "I'm here to support the party."

Rumours that Mr Johnson will use his week in Birmingham to prepare the ground for a future Tory leadership challenge were dismissed by veteran Cabinet minister Ken Clarke.

Mr Clarke told a Channel 4 fringe meeting: "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."

But on Sunday, he declined to say whether Mr Cameron was a better prime minister than he would be, telling BBC Radio 5Live's Pienaar's Politics the question was "unverifiable". However, he added that the PM was "doing a fantastic job".

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