Boris Johnson admits painting wooden boxes to look like buses for fun - but doesn't say whether they have dodgy Brexit claims on the side

Adam Forrest

Boris Johnson has been criticised for not divulging enough during the Conservative leadership contest, but on Tuesday he had plenty to say about his favourite pastime – painting buses on the side of old wooden crates.

When asked what he does for pleasure in an interview with talkRADIO, the frontrunner said that he liked to make models of buses, before contradicting himself to say that was not exactly what he meant.

“I don’t mean models of buses. What I make is, I get old ... wooden crates right, and then I paint them and, suppose it’s a box that has been used to contain two wine bottles and it will have a dividing thing, I turn it into a bus,” Mr Johnson said.

The Tory hopeful did not say whether he liked to paint any campaign slogans on the side of his buses.

In 2016 the Brexiteer appeared alongside the infamous Leave campaign bus emblazoned with the widely debunked claim the UK sends £350 million a week to the EU that could be spent on the NHS after Brexit.

Explaining his odd hobby further in his radio interview, Mr Johnson said: “I paint the passengers enjoying themselves on the wonderful bus, low-carbon of the kind that we brought to the streets of London, reducing CO2, reducing nitrous oxide, reducing pollution.”

Although some – including Labour MP Owen Smith – cast doubt on whether he was simply making it up, Mr Johnson has previously talked about painting on boxes of cheese and whisky bottles.

“I like to relax by painting on cheese boxes,” he said in an interview with The Metro in 2011. “You get Brie and Camembert in these lovely wooden boxes. Now it might sound cretinous and I’m not a very good painter but I enjoy it and find it therapeutic.”

“I paint the whole thing white with a tube of children’s paint and I look for something to paint,” he added. “The last thing I painted was a picture of one of my family in front of the Colosseum in Rome. I also like painting whisky bottles.”

The former mayor of London had abandoned his so-called “submarine strategy” of shunning media scrutiny after being called a coward by leadership rival Jeremy Hunt.

He resurfaced in an interview with the BBC’s political editor Laura Kuennsberg late on Monday night.

This kicked off a frantic round of interviews on Tuesday morning as his team attempts to recover lost ground and regain the momentum that previously looked almost certain to open the gates to Downing Street.

Asked on LBC radio about his recent domestic row, he refused to explain why police were called to his home. He also refused deny that a photo of him apparently making up with his girlfriend Carrie Symonds was staged.

Quizzed by host Nick Ferrari if he knew the photo was being released, Mr Johnson replied: “There are all sorts of pictures of me on the internet that pop up from time to time. It is entirely up to newspapers to decide what they want to print.”