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Mon, 30 March 2020

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Under-fire Boris Johnson tries to shift debate onto housing amid burqa row

Under-fire Boris Johnson tries to shift debate onto housing amid burqa row
2 min read

Boris Johnson has urged Theresa May to tackle Britain's housing crisis - as he side-stepped the row over his controversial remarks about the burqa.


The former foreign secretary's latest Telegraph column made no mention of the firestorm caused by his assertion that women wearing the Islamic garment look like "letterboxes" and "bank robbers".

Mr Johnson is now the subject of a Conservative party investigation over the comments and yesterday refused to answer questions from reporters about the controversy.

In his latest column, however, the Uxbridge MP shifted his focus onto housing, describing the UK's lack of affordable homes as "the single biggest and most urgent crisis" facing the country.

"It is not just that things were so much easier 30 years ago, when I left university and went looking for a flat," he wrote.

"It was only TEN years ago, for heaven’s sake, that the proportion of owner-occupiers among 25-34 year olds was still up at 64%.

"That figure has now plummeted to 39% – more than half the key generation shut out of the housing market."

The Tory heavyweight urged the Prime Minister to slash "absurdly high" levels of stamp duty and ditch what he called an "ideological obsession" with affordable housing targets in a bid to ramp up housebuilding.

He also warned Mrs May that the housing crisis is eating into support for capitalism among Britain's young, and said property developers are now "treating their buyers like serfs" because of a lack of competition.

"This is meant to be Britain, the great home-owning democracy, but we now have lower rates of owner-occupation, for the under-40s, than France and Germany," he fumed.

"That is a disgrace; and you can’t expect young people to be automatically sympathetic to capitalism when they find it so tough to acquire capital themselves."

Mr Johnson's latest Telegraph column came after he was reprimanded by the lobbying watchdog for taking up the newspaper gig just days after dramatically quitting as Foreign Secretary over Brexit.

The Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba) said Mr Johnson had failed to observe a required three-month waiting period for ex-ministers taking up new jobs, and had not notified the authorities about his intention to take on the columnist job.

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