Boris Johnson has rejected the idea that he could be the next Conservative party leader, saying the role would go to “some babe unborn”.
Johnson, thought to be a leading candidate to replace David Cameron, said: “One day, in the dim distant future when David Cameron relinquishes the premiership, some babe unborn will take over, but I think that the vacancy is unlikely to arise for the foreseeable future.”
Speaking to LBC radio, the London mayor, who hopes to return to parliament in May as MP for the west London constituency of Uxbridge and South Ruislip, said that he “would be delighted to serve in a Conservative government” and that he was sure his party would win the general election.
“What I see is David Cameron winning. The betting markets are overwhelmingly suggesting that,” he said. “Don’t look at the polls. Look at where the money is going.”
Mike Smithson, an expert on political betting markets, told the Guardian that – while the betting odds favoured the Conservative party – Tory punters tended to “take the most optimistic view” of the party’s chances. He pointed out that at this point in the run-up to the 2010 general election the betting odds pointed to a Conservative majority of 40 to 50 even though the polls had them well short of a majority.
Johnson was also asked whether he would save Cameron or George Osborne if he found himself on a lifeboat with only room for one more person. “I’d immediately plunge, dive overboard, and offer them the dinghy in the knowledge that I can swim heroically to land myself,” the mayor said. “That’s what I’d do.”
Johnson was speaking while on a six-day trade mission to the east coast of the US, which has being interpreted as an attempt for him to demonstrate his credentials as a statesman.
The trip follows a visit to the Kurdish regional capital of Irbil, during which he posed for pictures with an AK47, to see the Peshmerga fighters who are pushing back against the Isis insurgency in Iraq.
The London mayor has been inconsistent about his leadership ambitions, at one time saying his chances of becoming prime minister were only slightly better than being “decapitated by a frisbee, blinded by a champagne cork, locked in a fridge or reincarnated as an olive” and at another point saying he would “have a crack” at being party leader “if the ball came loose from the back of a scrum”.
Johnson repeated that he would not be running again in the 2016 mayoral elections, saying that politicians shouldn’t stay in the post for too long.
“I’ve loved the job and you think about Blair and Thatcher and all these people who hang on and hang on and hang on, it all ends in ... all political careers end in tears in one way or another, of course, quite rightly – it would be totally wrong if it didn’t. Wretched politicians – they need to be kicked out.”
Johnson compared the leader of the opposition and the shadow chancellor to the cult film characters Thelma and Louise. He said: “The last thing this country needs is Ed Miliband and Ed Balls back in charge, when they drove the car off the cliff last time – the Thelma and Louise of British politics.”
He added: “I think Thelma and Louise were rather more popular, come to think of it.”
This article was written by Frances Perraudin, for theguardian.com on Friday 13th February 2015 14.44 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010