The weirdest Tory leadership denial ever?

By staff

Grant Shapps has offered one of the strangest leadership denials yet to emerge from the mouths of potential successors to David Cameron.

The Conservative party chairman chose to adopt a big-picture perspective when the question was put to him in a newspaper interview.

Shapps said the average human life span is "80 to 100 years each while the planet's been around for billions of years, the universe for 14 billion".

Elaborating further, he explained: "My great hope for my speck of time on this planet would be that I live and die, and that what I leave behind has made some kind of impression and has been for the better in terms of my family and friends and, in my case, public service.

"That's what I want to do and I'm perfectly happy doing it in the sort of roles that have come along so far, as a minister and party chairman and in the Cabinet," he told the Sunday Telegraph. "I don't spend lots of time thinking about what I shall do in the future."

Shapps served as housing minister before replacing Sayeeda Warsi as the main mouthpiece of the Conservative party in the 2012 reshuffle.

He takes on the mantle of most preposterous Tory denier yet, after Boris Johnson lost his crown in a car-crash interview with Eddie Mair last weekend.

The London mayor had used his signature flair to play down his own leadership ambitions in recent years, suggesting there was about as much chance of him being "reincarnated as an olive".

But Johnson went on to struggle after being told he was a "nasty piece of work" by Mair, in an interview which left many commentators downplaying his potential for the leadership.

"All I want is for David Cameron to win this election. I want to do everything I can to help," Johnson insisted.

"People will rightly conclude I don't want to talk about this subject."

Shapps is also preoccupied by securing a win for the prime minister in 2015, but was not convinced an overall majority for the Conservatives is the most obvious likely outcome.

"I think it's up in the air," he admitted.

"But there's a good chance, all to play for. I would literally put it at 50-50."

The Conservatives face a stern test against the Liberal Democrats in May 2nd's local elections, when shire counties go to the polls in a contest largely taking place in county councils dominated by middle-class, rural England voters.