London Mayor Boris Johnson hits the UK campaign trail
With the polls deadlocked ahead of an election, Prime Minister David Cameron campaigned Wednesday with Boris Johnson, one of the Conservative party's most popular politicians who also has his eye on the top job.
Johnson, the twice elected mayor of London, had been keeping a low profile during the campaign for the May 7 vote but this week has made a string of appearances with top Tories in a bid to boost the party's momentum.
He came out fighting at the weekend, warning that the election represented a "Battle for Britain", and on Wednesday attacked the opposition Labour for having "completely deranged" policies.
He condemned their record in government from 1997 to 2010, saying: "Why in the name of all that's holy would you put them back in charge of the economy? I don't understand it."
Afterwards he joined Cameron for a photo opportunity at a south London nursery, where the two men joined in some finger painting and also struggled to put together a puzzle designed for young children.
"Thank God for that. That was stressful," the prime minister said when they finally completed it, while Johnson joked: "That was a bit like the campaign... suddenly, the final surge."
Cameron made the surprise announcement last month that if he wins the election, he will not stand for a third term, and named three possible successors -- including Johnson, who had long been tipped as a future leader.
Research by polling company YouGov found the former journalist is the clear public favourite to succeed Cameron.
In a Sky News interview Wednesday, Johnson admitted he was interested in becoming Tory leader but his priority was to get the prime minister re-elected.
"In the dim, distant future obviously it would be a wonderful thing to be thought to be in a position to be considered for such a role," he said.
"But I think it highly unlikely, as I've said many many times before -- it's more likely that I will be reincarnated as an olive or blinded by a champagne cork or locked in a disused fridge."
Such rhetoric is typical of Johnson, a rare maverick in British politics who hides his intellect and ambition behind an image of a loveable fool.
Critics accuse him of being more interested in publicity than achievement, and some question his grasp of detail.
But he has been able to reach out to voters that other Conservatives cannot reach, particularly the young -- not least because he often strays from the party line.
Johnson raised doubts about extending the rights of social housing tenants to buy their homes just weeks before the Conservatives made the policy a key manifesto promise.
And on Wednesday, Johnson appeared to back a controversial suggestion that British special forces should be sent into Libya to tackle human traffickers.
© 2015 AFP