London Mayor Boris Johnson has championed the cause of middle income families, saying they're feeling "utterly and understandably ignored", as he prepared to address the Conservative conference in Birmingham.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Mr Johnson called for more help for the "struggling middle" - working families with incomes ranging from £30,000 to £64,000 - particularly regarding issues like housing.

"They are not being helped," he wrote. "They are feeling utterly and understandably ignored. It is time to help them."

boris johnson

Boris championed the cause of the "squeezed middle"

Johnson suggests that the property for families in the middle income bracket has become unaffordable, writing in the Telegraph:

"They cannot get the mortgages they would need, not at current prices, and not with lenders in their current mood.

"They have to live at a great distance from their place of work, and spend huge quantities on travel and hardly get to see their children in the evenings. They are obliged to rent at ever higher prices."

He insists that the "squeezed middle" need a housing plan that protects their interests, calling this crucial group "the motor of London" and insists they are being ignored.

Once again he has used the article to highlight his apparent differences with the government. The outspoken Mayor has already clashed with Cameron over Europe, the proposed third runway at Heathrow and funding for infrastructure projects in the capital.

Read Boris Johnson's full column here

Mr Johnson's arrival in Birmingham threatens to overshadow events in the conference chamber.

Polls have suggested he outstrips Prime Minister David Cameron in public popularity thanks to his re-election as Mayor and his handling of the summer's Olympic Games.

Mr Johnson yesterday sought to play down speculation that he is positioning himself to succeed Mr Cameron as Conservative leader and Prime Minister, insisting that it was a "distraction" from his job as London Mayor.

But in an interview for Pienaar's Politics on BBC Radio 5 Live on the opening day of conference, it was notable that he avoided ruling out a future bid for the party's top job.

Asked if he believed Mr Cameron was doing a better job as PM than he could, he would only say that the question was "unverifiable".

And challenged over whether he harboured ambitions to be PM, he said that what he wanted to be was Mayor "certainly for the next few years", adding: "After four years are up, heaven knows. I will be an old man."

david cameron and boris

Who would make a better PM? Johnson said it was "unverifiable"

Mr Cameron was the best man to run the country "now", he said, adding that it was "perfectly natural" for the media to construct a narrative in which the two men were in competition, as his position as a representative of London's interests "inevitably" brought him into conflict with the Government.

"My function is to run London, I have been elected to do that, and David Cameron is overwhelmingly the best man now to lead this country, to clear up the mess that Labour left, and I think he is doing a bang-on job," said Mr Johnson.

Mr Cameron - who hosted Mr Johnson for pre-conference weekend drinks at a pub near Chequers - sought to play down any suggestion of rivalry with the London Mayor.

"I have got the opposite of tall poppy syndrome," the PM told BBC1's Andrew Marr Show. "I like having other people in the Conservative Party who are popular, who get out there, talk our message and explain our vision and values.

"I have said to Boris: 'Once you have done your job as London mayor, don't think your job in politics is over.' I think he has got a huge amount to offer, a huge amount to give and I encourage him to do that."

But there is little doubt that Mr Johnson's presence in Birmingham will divert attention from Mr Cameron and his Cabinet colleagues, including Chancellor George Osborne, who is giving his keynote speech today.

The Mayor will address a rally staged by the influential Conservative Home website under the triumphal banner "Re-elected and Olympotastic".

Tomorrow, he will address the conference itself, buoyed by the survey by pollsters Opinium for The Observer which gave him a net +30 rating, compared to -21 for the Prime Minister.

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  • Conservative Party Conference 2012

    Chancellor George Osbourne is interviewed today on the first morning of the Conservative Conference at Birmingham's International Convention Centre.

  • Conservative Party Conference 2012

    Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife Samantha arrive at their hotel on the eve of the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham.

  • Conservative Party Conference 2012

    Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife Samantha arrive at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham.

  • Conservative Party Conference 2012

    Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife Samantha arrive at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham.

  • Conservative Party Conference 2012

    Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife Samantha arrive at their hotel on the eve of the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham.

  • Conservative Party Conference 2012

    Prime Minister David Cameron is interviewed by Andrew Marr at the BBC studios in Birmingham, before the start of the Conservative Party Conference.

  • Conservative Party Conference 2012

    Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife Samantha arrive at the BBC studios in Birmingham, where the Prime Minister appeared on the Andrew Marr Show and later attending the first day of the Conservative Party Conference.

  • Conservative Party Conference 2012

    A billboard against police cuts in Birmingham during the first day of the Conservative Party Conference at the ICC, Birmingham.

  • Conservative Party Conference 2012

    Justice Secretary Chris Grayling during the first day of the Conservative Party Conference at the ICC, Birmingham.

  • Conservative Party Conference 2012

    Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps during the first day of the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham today.

  • Conservative Party Conference 2012

    Co-Chairman of the Conservative Party Grant Shapps during the Conservative Party Conference at the ICC, Birmingham.

  • Conservative Party Conference 2012

    Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth William Hague Affairs during the Conservative Party Conference at the ICC, Birmingham.

  • Conservative Party Conference 2012

    Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth William Hague Affairs during the Conservative Party Conference at the ICC, Birmingham.

  • Conservative Party Conference 2012

    Nicola Blackwood, MP for Oxford West and Abingdon during the Conservative Party Conference at the ICC, Birmingham.

  • Conservative Party Conference 2012

    Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth William Hague Affairs during the Conservative Party Conference at the ICC, Birmingham.

  • Conservative Party Conference 2012

    Foreign Secretary William Hague during the first day of the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham today.

  • Conservative Party Conference 2012

    Party Co-Chairman Grant Shapps during the Conservative Party Conference at the ICC, Birmingham.

  • Conservative Party Conference 2012

    Foreign Secretary William Hague during the first day of the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham today.

  • ASA probe Shapps

    File photo dated 05/09/12 of Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps, who is being investigated by the advertising watchdog over claims that its website misled users.

  • Conservative Party Conference 2012

    Foreign Secretary William Hague's wife Ffion and Prime Minister David Cameron during the first day of the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham today.

  • Conservative Party Conference 2012

    Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps during the first day of the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham today.