Boris Johnson has denied he is already “measuring the curtains” for Downing Street amid reports he has begun drawing up his new cabinet.
The front runner in the race for the Tory leadership insisted that he had not offered any jobs in expectation that he was on course to enter No 10 next month.
Appearing at the latest leadership hustings in Exeter, he said: “Of course, there is a wealth of talent on the Conservative benches but anything I say now about the future shape or personnel of the administration I lead would be counted as measuring the curtains.”
He poured cold water on a report that he was preparing to offer Home Secretary and defeated leadership contender Sajid Javid the post of chancellor.
“One of the difficulties I am discovering in this situation is obviously that people want to project onto us and to our agenda all sorts of things that they think are desirable, including the possibility that they should have some job or other,” he said.
“Nobody has been offered a job.”
He also sidestepped a question as to whether he would be prepared to offer a post to his rival for the Tory crown, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
“I have a very, very high regard for Jeremy but … I am not making commitments to anybody,” he said.
Mr Hunt, in his hustings, said he would “love” to have Mr Johnson in his cabinet, and joked that he would make his rival the “Secretary of State for collective responsibility” in his government.
“Boris is someone of enormous talent, he’s changed the course of our history through his leadership of the Leave campaign and he should always have a very big role in taking things forward,” he told party members.
“In terms of what role he would have I think that’s a discussion that I would have with him in that situation. Would I serve him? Of course – we’re in an incredibly difficult situation.
“I think whoever doesn’t win in this contest needs to put their shoulder to the wheel and serve loyally the winner so that we can get through this, get to the other side, and give the country all the exciting things that we want to do.”
Mr Hunt said he loved his current job, adding: “I think these are the details and I think the important thing is that both of us should be willing to serve the other if things don’t work out the way that we want.”
Following Vladimir Putin’s claim liberalism in the West was now “obsolete”, Mr Johnson admitted that when he was foreign secretary he had hoped to forge a new relationship with Russia based on liberal values but had failed.
“I really though that it was possible to eyeball the Russians and get a new relationship. I was very optimistic,” he said.
“I went to Moscow in defiance of a lot of advice. I tried to build a new friendship and a new partnership and it just isn’t there.
“All this stuff Putin comes up with about liberalism is over is wrong. He is totally wrong.
“Our values – freedom, democracy, free speeches – those thing are imperishable and they will succeed.
“I believe those things so strongly I thought it must be obvious to the Russians and in the end it wasn’t.”