Tory MP Boris Johnson is backing the ‘leave EU’ camp but critics claim he is really lining himself to become David Cameron’s successor – a charge he brushed aside after being mobbed in Chester last year.
Boris this morning told reporters outside his London home the EU was a ‘political project’ that was in ‘real danger of getting out of proper democratic control’.
Denial over alleged leadership bid
He denied his anti-EU stance, which comes after the PM announced the 'in-out' EU referendum will take place on June 23, had anything to do with his leadership ambitions.
And the MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip side-stepped similar accusations in typical Boris fashion while on the campaign trail in Chester city centre last April.
Asked about his leadership pretensions, after posing for numerous selfies and addressing a crowd at The Cross alongside Tory candidate Stephen Mosley, Mr Johnson joked ‘Give me a break!’, but spoken in French.
He exclaimed: “Donnez moi un break! We’re going to get David Cameron elected Prime Minister.”
Commentators have suggested the outgoing Mayor of London’s recent conversion to Euroscepticism is designed to differentiate himself from his pro-European rival, Tatton MP George Osborne, ready for when Cameron steps down, believing this will play well with the party faithful.
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The high risk strategy relies on the British electorate voting to pull out of Europe. And there has been a debate about how much influence he will have on the outcome of the EU referendum across the country given his close association with the capital.
However, The Sun’s political editor Tom Newton Dunn told BBC Radio Five Live it was his experience of accompanying Boris on a tour of northern marginal constituencies, including Chester, that persuaded him the blond-haired MP had broad appeal because of the sheer number of selfies he was asked to do.
He believes Boris ‘will not change the outcome of the referendum’, but added: “Until the general election campaign I really questioned whether the ‘Boris effect’ would reach north of Watford so I went out for a day with him, up north to the Manchester swing seats, the southern Manchester belt and places like Chester and he spent the entire day going to three or four different marginals.
“I counted the amount of times people stopped him in the street for selfies – it used to be handshakes, now it’s selfies – and I lost count at 164 in four or five hours. He is a massive celebrity who stopped the traffic even in your part of the world as well as mine.”