Boris Johnson insisted today a controversial speech where he appeared to suggest that poor people have their own low IQs to blame for their situation had been wilfully misconstrued.
The Mayor of London sparked a wave of criticism last week when he said that 16% of ''our species'' had an IQ of less than 85 and just 2% over 130 before adding ''the harder you shake the pack, the easier it will be for some cornflakes to get to the top''.
Chancellor George Osborne said he did not agree with the mayor's comments and Prime Minister David Cameron made clear that he did not share the sentiments, while Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, branded it ''unpleasant, careless elitism''.
On his regular LBC 97.3 phone-in show, Ask Boris, the mayor defended the speech, made in honour of Margaret Thatcher.
He said: "What I was saying actually is there is too much inequality and my speech was actually a warning, as correctly reported by many newspapers, actually a warning against letting this thing go unchecked because if you look at what's happened in the last 20, 30 years there's been a widening in income between the rich and the poor, there's no question about that.
"What hacks me off is that people with ability have found it very difficult to progress in the last 20 years and we have got to do something about that.
"The key thing I said was that inequality was only tolerable in our society if you, number one, you looked after those who are finding it tough to compete and, number two, where people do have talent and ability you let them get on and so I went on to explain what you needed to do."
Asked about the criticism his speech had provoked, he said: "People are entitled to misinterpret, wilfully to misconstrue what I said if they so choose. I notice that many newspapers , many commentators did not. I think the real issue is we need to do more to help people, both who are finding it tough and people who... 20 or 30 years ago we had much more fluidity..."
Mr Johnson was given a short IQ test by presenter Nick Ferrari and failed to give a correct answer to any of the three questions.
Asked how many apples he would have if he took two apples from three apples, the Mayor replied: "You've got loads of apples mate, you've got one apple left."
Mr Ferrari said: "You say you've got one apple? You haven't, you've got two apples."
He added: "You didn't get any of the IQ questions right so who are you to lecture about IQ, Mr Mayor?"
"No one has said that IQ is the only measure of ability but what I have been saying repeatedly is that our system is letting down people who do have ability and could do much better," Mr Johnson replied.
Mr Cameron was yesterday pressed on the mayor's speech during his trade visit to China.
''I let Boris speak for himself,'' he said. ''I think is very important that we make sure we do everything so that we maximise people's opportunities to make the most of their talents.
''I believe in equality of opportunity. No one should be held back by not being able to get the training, education and skills that they need.''