Boris Johnson has vowed to hit Jeremy Corbyn ‘out of the park’ at the next general election as he said the Tories must prepare for a snap poll.
The former foreign secretary said that while he did not want to go to the country early, the Conservative Party had to ‘get ready’ to defend its grip on power.
He also said he would use the £39billion Brexit divorce bill to fund his spending promises if Britain leaves the EU without a deal in comments likely to spark a furious backlash in Brussels.
Speaking in York at the latest Tory leadership hustings, he said: ‘We have to get ready to defeat him and I don’t want an early election, let me be clear, do you want a guy who not only backs Hamas and Hezbollah and all the rest of it but who would put up inheritance tax, pension tax, financial transaction tax, income tax to 50p in the pound?
‘He would be a catastrophe for our country. He cannot be allowed to take the reins of power in this country.
‘We need to make sure that we keep him out and to do that we have to deliver Brexit, a sensible Brexit, on time on October 31.
‘We need to unite and remobilise our party and our country and we need to get ready to hit him out of the park.’
Mr Johnson moved to dismiss suggestions that he would put delivering Brexit ahead of preserving the United Kingdom as he said: ‘The Union comes first.’
The hustings in York came as Mr Johnson and his rival Jeremy Hunt broke the golden rule of never working with animals as they hit the campaign trail.
Mr Johnson got to grips with a sheep as he tried his hand at shearing and he was pictured smelling his hands after tackling the woolly beast.
He later had a go at making his own sausages – so-called ‘Boris Bangers’ – at the Heck sausage factory near Bedale in North Yorkshire before holding his handiwork above his head in an apparent victory pose.
Meanwhile, Mr Hunt got up close and personal with a cavapoo – a cross between a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and a Miniature Poodle – as he visited a pub in Guildford.
He said hello to diminutive Frankie in The Keep as he visited Surrey, including his own nearby constituency of South West Surrey.
Mr Johnson told Tory activists in York this evening that he would not put delivering Brexit above preserving the United Kingdom
The favourite to take over from Theresa May told the packed event in York that the Tory grassroots had to prepare for a snap general election even though he did not want one
Feeling sheepish: Earlier in the day Mr Johnson posed as he tried shearing at a farm in Yorkshire ahead of tonight’s hustings in York
Smells like victory: Wool is rich in lanolin, a natural wax that can have an earthy scent
Mr Johnson later visited the Heck sausage factory before making his way to York for tonight’s hustings
The former foreign secretary appeared in good spirits and for good reason: The bookmakers currently have him as the overwhelming favourite to be the next PM
Mr Johnson got the VIP treatment at the Heck factory near Bedale in North Yorkshire as he made his very own packets of ‘Boris Bangers’
Mr Johnson used the hustings event to set out his vision for a reinvigorated Conservative Party.
He said that under his leadership the party would have ‘a bit more self belief because that is what has been lacking’.
It would also get back to strongly advocating the benefits of capitalism as he said the Tories would once again tell voters: ‘We believe in wealth creation.’
Mr Johnson today unveiled plans to boost police numbers by 20,000 and tonight he sought to build on his crime and punishment credentials as he said he would tackle so-called ‘county lines’ drugs gangs by ’rounding up the key nominals’.
The favourite for Number 10 also gave his strongest comments yet on whether he would suspend parliament to stop MPs from blocking a No Deal Brexit on October 31.
He said he was ‘not remotely attracted’ to proroguing parliament but did not explicitly rule out taking such an action if he becomes PM.
‘I am not attracted to resorting to such a device because I confide in the maturity and common sense of my fellow MPs,’ he added.
Mr Johnson also claimed he would use the money the UK is currently due to pay to Brussels as part of its divorce to fund his campaign promises in the event of a No Deal scenario.
Critics have questioned how he would pay for things like a proposed income tax cut for high earners if the UK does go ahead with a disorderly break up given that he has earmarked cash currently set aside by the Treasury to cushion a No Deal split.
‘We will have an additional £39billion to spend,’ he said.
Meanwhile, he signalled he would target giant internet retailers like Amazon in order to help out high streets as he said: ‘We have got to find a way to tax internet giants on their income.’
His comments came as Mr Johnson and Mr Hunt entered a pivotal part of the race for Number 10.
Ballot papers have now started to be sent to Conservative Party members with many activists expected to vote in the next 72 hours.
That means Mr Hunt has just a matter of days to persuade the Tory grassroots to ditch the favourite and back his campaign instead.
The event in York is the seventh installment in a planned 16-date hustings tour in front of the party’s rank and file.
Why the long face? Frankie the cava-poo does not seem too pleased to see the cameras in Guildford today
Pulling machine: Jeremy Hunt pours himself a decent-looking pint as he visits the Keep pub in Guildford
The Foreign Secretary was given a tour of the York Railway Museum when he arrived in the city this afternoon ahead of this evening’s debate
Mr Hunt’s campaign took a hit today after there was an angry backlash to his pledge to hold a vote on repealing the ban on fox hunting
Five of the events are happening within the next three days as the contest enters the make or break phase for both candidates.
Today’s rural visits came after Mr Hunt had vowed to push for the ban on fox hunting to be lifted.
The Foreign Secretary was left scrambling to defuse the row over the blood sport today after he said he would bring the issue to the House of Commons if he thought there was a majority for reversing the law.
He said he personally believed hunting the animals with dogs should be allowed.
But the comments were condemned by Labour, which said fox hunting was a ‘barbaric practice’, and a number of Tories also highlighted that Theresa May had made the same pledge before the disastrous 2017 general election.
Mr Hunt had tried to draw a line under the controversy this morning by insisting lifting the ban was ‘not something that is going to happen’.
‘There isn’t a majority in the House of Commons and I don’t see there ever being one,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
He repeatedly dodged when asked if he thought fox hunting was cruel.
Meanwhile, Mr Johnson pledged to put an extra 20,000 police officers on the streets within three years if he becomes prime minister on July 24.
Mr Hunt, pictured today visiting a primary school in Surrey, remains the underdog in the race for Number 10
The Foreign Secretary, pictured today as he tried his hand at cricket at the Surrey Para Games in Godalming, faces a critical 72 hours as Tory members begin to receive their ballot papers
Mr Hunt, pictured helping to serve refreshments at the games in Surrey, sparked controversy after he said he would push for a vote to reverse the ban on fox hunting if he becomes PM
The Tory leadership front runner unveiled plans for a recruitment blitz in order to reverse the huge cuts in police numbers since 2010 which have been blamed for a 19 per cent rise in violent crime.
An extra 20,000 officers will cost £1billion a year – money that would be borrowed or come from the £26billion ‘headroom’ set aside by Philip Hammond to cope with a No Deal Brexit.
The former foreign secretary said: ‘Soaring crime levels are destroying lives across the country and we urgently need to tackle this.’
Mr Johnson unveiled a pledge today to boost police numbers by 20,000 if he takes over from Mrs May
There was also renewed scrutiny of Mr Johnson’s relationship with Carrie Symonds today as Tory MPs hailed her role in revitalising his political fortunes.
Mr Johnson’s girlfriend was said to have ‘really focused’ Mr Johnson since their relationship began and prevented his campaign being ‘macho’, according to supporters.
Some even claimed they were only backing the Conservative leadership favourite because of Ms Symonds.
There is also mounting speculation about whether Ms Symonds will join Mr Johnson living in Downing Street if he succeeds Mrs May as PM.