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Johnson stresses loyalty to Cameron
London Mayor Boris Johnson has hailed the "fantastic job" being done by Prime Minister David Cameron and predicted he will lead the Conservatives to victory in the general election scheduled for 2015.
In his keynote speech to the Conservative conference in Birmingham, Mr Johnson made a point of singling out the Prime Minister for praise.
Gossip in the bars and corridors of Birmingham has this week been dominated by the possibility of the mayor making a bid for Mr Cameron's job, following polls suggesting that he could give the Tories - currently trailing Labour by around 10 points - a massive boost with voters.
But Mr Johnson has stressed his loyalty to Mr Cameron, while the Prime Minister has shrugged off the speculation, insisting he is unworried by the "rock star status" granted the mayor, who was given a rapturous reception by delegates at a rally on Monday night.
In his keynote speech, Mr Johnson thanked activists who helped him to re-election as Mayor of London earlier this year. "You showed that we can overcome a Labour lead and win in the places which the two Eds are so cocky as to think that they own," said Mr Johnson.
Pointing to the smiling Prime Minister in the audience, he added: "If we can win in a recession and wipe out a 17-point Labour lead, then I know that David Cameron will win in 2015, when the economy has turned round - and we are already seeing signs of progress - when people are benefiting from jobs and growth and the firm leadership you have shown and the tough decisions you have taken, not least coming along to hear this speech today."
Wishing Mr Cameron a happy birthday, Mr Johnson joked: "I was pleased to see that you called me a blond-haired mop in the papers. If I am a mop, David Cameron, you are a broom - a broom that is clearing up the mess left by the Labour government, and a fantastic job you are doing. I congratulate you and your colleagues George Osborne the dustpan, Michael Gove the J-cloth, William Hague the sponge. It is the historic function of Conservative governments over the last 100 years to be the household implements on the floor of the house, so effective at clearing up after the Labour binge has got out of control."
In a speech studded with jokes, Mr Johnson called for the "can do" attitude of the Olympics to be applied to the economy, with British firms becoming "gold medal winners".
Promising to help "the strugglers, the strivers" who were the backbone of the economy, Mr Johnson joked: "As Napoleon almost said, Britain is a nation of small and medium-sized enterprises." He added: "We need to think every day what we can do to create the right conditions for them to flourish to become more than medium-sized, to become gold medallists in the UK, in the global, economy."
Asked by Sky's Adam Boulton whether he supported a further cut in the top rate of income tax from 45p, Mr Johnson appeared to go further. He said: "In so far as it is significantly higher than other areas, then, yes, I would be in favour of moving towards lower tax rates." Mr Johnson declined to attack Labour leader Ed Miliband over claims that his house in north London was worth more than £1 million but said it was worth a "pretty penny". He added: "I don't think we should get into this personal stuff about people's personal wealth, it is a completely hopeless business."