Boris told Londoners ‘nothing like Bridget Jones’

Boris Johnson was today accused of being condescending towards women by likening single Londoners to Bridget Jones.

In a speech on housing, the Tory mayoral candidate said single women choosing to live alone were one factor driving up demand for housing in the capital.

He said: “Bridget Jones wants a place of her own.”

Liberal Democrat mayoral candidate Brian Paddick said Mr Johnson’s reference to the bumbling literary heroine was “offensive”.

Mr Paddick said: “The majority of women in London are smart, independent and focused; nothing like the chaotic chain-smoking spinster that his Bridget Jones label suggests.”

In his speech to the launch of the Annual National House Building Council Mr Johnson had said independent young women wanting their own property were a “good reason” for increased demand.

He also identified divorcees and people opting to live alone by choice as factors driving up demand in the capital.

Mr Johnson agreed housing supply must be increased to offset a housing crisis, warning London stands at a “critical moment” in its history.

He said: “We must be frank and admit that London’s housing crisis is one of the biggest deterrents to talent and one of the biggest causes of unhappiness.”

Incumbent mayor Ken Livingstone has accused Mr Johnson of resisting plans for new developments.

Mr Johnson said today he supported new builds, but not when homes are forced on boroughs through arbitrary targets.

Rejecting Mr Livingstone’s plans for suburban tower blocks, the Tory MP for Henley said homes must be “beautiful” and built in areas people want to live.

Mr Johnson agreed rising house prices have implications for social equality, with the prolonged rise in house prices exacerbating the gap between rich and poor.

But he courted controversy by calling for a departure from the emphasis on affordable housing.

He said: “There isn’t a dwelling in London that is intrinsically affordable or unaffordable from the smallest flat in Lewisham to the biggest wedding-cake schloss in Kensington and there is something rather offputting about the definition in the London plan.”

Rather than focusing on building “affordable housing”, Mr Johnson said the mayor of London should promote shared equity schemes and boost the rental sector so all Londoners are able to live in “beautiful” homes.

Mr Paddick said Mr Johnson was “out of touch” with ordinary people if he thought Londoners should not get “hung up” about affordable housing.

Today’s speech on housing marks one of the first policy statements by Mr Johnson, who is under pressure to prove he is a serious candidate for the 2008 mayoral election.