Johnson entered the busy hall to a standing ovation as the slogan “Mission Imborisible” was displayed over footage of the Mayor of London’s ill-fated descent of a zip wire during the Olympics.
But he used the platform to once again insist that his contrary stance on issues such as airport expansion did not mean he was seeking the party leadership.
“It is inevitable that the mayor of a great city will find himself saying things that seem at variance with national policies,” he said. “Of course I am going to continue to lobby for a long-term solution to the aviation capacity problem. No-one should as a result have any cause to doubt my admiration for David Cameron.”
Describing himself as the “biggest harvester of undeserved credit” for the Olympics, he declared his “flat disbelief” at winning re-election in May but celebrated his success in defeating “a cabal of semi-reformed Marxists”.
He told the rally, organised by the ConservativeHome website, that the party must “stick to the programme on the economy and electoral success will follow”. Johnson also took the opportunity to announce that members of the armed forces will now receive free tube travel if they are wearing their uniform.
He was also keen to attract high-paid French workers fleeing recent wealth taxes: “Not since 1789 has there been such terror and tyranny in France. I am very keen to welcome talented French people to London.”
Earlier in the day cabinet minister Ken Clarke had told a Channel 4 fringe meeting that Johnson will need to act more statesmanlike if he is to fulfil his political ambitions: “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.”
This morning Johnson will give his official speech. At the weekend an opinion poll gave Johnson a net approval rating of +30 per cent compared to -21 per cent for Cameron.