Rishi Sunak has declared that he does not want to take over as prime minister, laughing off claiming his own job is difficult enough.
The chancellor acknowledged disagreements but spoke warmly of his relationship with Johnson after rumours of a split between the two men inhabiting Downing Street.
The suggestions have largely been fuelled by the prime minister’s decision to stay away from the Commons when the chancellor unveiled his winter economy plan last month.
And some on the Conservative backbenches have been talking up Mr Sunak’s prospects as leader following disquiet over Johnson’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
But, asked if he eventually wants the keys to No 10 in an interview after his Tory conference speech, Mr Sunak said with a chuckle: “God, no. Definitely not seeing what the Prime Minister has to deal with.
“This is a job hard enough for me to do.”
Sunak used his setpiece speech to praise the prime minister, saying he has a “special and rare quality” to connect to the public and has made the right calls “in the big moments”.
In the interview, Sunak alluded to a friendly relationship when he acknowledged that his boss calls him “Rish”.
“He keeps trying to tell me to call him other things but I just stick with PM,” he added.
“We have a close personal friendship which then spreads through the teams where there’s an enormous amount of mutual trust.”
Sunak acknowledged there are disagreements at times, saying that ministers are not “all robots” but insisted any debate is always done with the “spirit of trust and respect”.