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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 October 2006, 14:33 GMT 15:33 UK
Cameron backs 'off message' Boris
Boris Johnson

David Cameron has given a ringing endorsement to shadow minister Boris Johnson, telling him Conservatives do not mind people "going off message".

"We love it actually," the Tory leader told the party's conference, adding "just don't do it all the time!"

Mr Johnson has been under fire since he told a fringe meeting he would "get rid of Jamie Oliver".

He later said he was misinterpreted, and hailed the TV chef as a "national hero" and "the Messiah".

In his closing conference speech, Mr Cameron joked that the party had had a good week.

"Even Boris made it all the way to Tuesday afternoon before he put his foot in it," he said.

He paid tribute to the "terrific job" Mr Johnson had been doing as education spokesman

"This is the Conservative Party. We are not New Labour, we don't mind if people go off message. We love it actually - just don't do it all the time," he said.

Let's allow the odd eccentric to be in politics
William Hague

Earlier, Tory members at the party's conference voted by 77% to 23% in favour of a hastily arranged debate on a motion hailing Mr Oliver as a national hero.

Mr Johnson, who backed the motion, defended his earlier comments about "too much" pressure being put on children to eat healthily and asking why mothers shouldn't "push pies through the railings".

He told the conference that what he had meant was that as long as pupils had the choice of crisps and junk food it would be difficult for schools to persuade them to pick the healthy option.

"What I said was if you really wanted to make Jamie's solution work, you would have to have a completely paternalist, out and out 'eat what you are given', approach," he said.

He suggested packed lunches "should be banned", although he shortly afterwards backed one delegate who said parents should be free to choose what goes in their children's packed lunches.

'Valued colleague'

On Wednesday morning, shadow foreign secretary William Hague laughed off the original comments, telling BBC Breakfast: "Boris is Boris".

"There is room for a maverick or an eccentric in politics and he is a maverick and he is an eccentric," he said.

"But he does a very good job as well on higher education and let's allow the odd eccentric to be in politics, let's not drive them all out of politics."

He said: "Boris is a very valued member of our party. Clearly we don't all necessarily agree with everything he says but it does not have to be a monolithic organisation."

On Sunday, Tory leader David Cameron heaped praise on Mr Oliver's crusade to make school dinners more nutritious.

William Hague on the Tory party and Boris Johnson

Boris slams Jamie's food crusade
03 Oct 06 |  UK Politics

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