Boris Johnson branded crass for praising Thatcher coal mine closures as helping the climate

The Prime Minister has been slammed as “crass”, “foolish” and “callous” after comparing Margaret Thatcher’s pit closure programme in the 1980s to the transition needed to renewable energy to tackle the current climate crisis.

Boris Johnson praised Margaret Thatcher's closing of coal mines
Boris Johnson praised Margaret Thatcher's closing of coal mines

Boris Johnson made the remarks as he visited the Moray East offshore wind farm during his two-day visit to Scotland to promote green energy and the forthcoming COP26 UN climate summit due to take place in Glasgow in November.

Outlining his party’s “ambition” plans to reach net zero by 2050 to journalists, he said: “Look at what we’ve done already. We've transitioned away from coal in my lifetime.

"Thanks to Margaret Thatcher who closed so many coal mines across the country we had a we had a big early start and we’re now moving rapidly away from coal altogether. We're now, we're now down to less than two per cent, one per cent I think of our energy comes from coal.”

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He also joked: “I knew that would get you going.”

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However his comment was heavily criticised by opposition parties, with opposition politicians lining up to describe his remarks as "disgusting, divisive and disrespectful.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: “Lives & communities in Scotland were utterly devastated by Thatcher’s destruction of the coal industry (which had zero to do with any concern she had for the planet). To treat that as something to laugh about is crass & deeply insensitive to that reality.”

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Scottish Labour leader, Anas Sarwar, said Mr Johnson’s remark was “Stupid. Crass. Out of touch. Just another example of why the Tories are a disaster and the biggest threat to the union.”

His fellow MSP Neil Bibby added: “This is a callous and foolish statement from the Prime Minister. They really are the same old Tory party.

“It’s clear that the Prime Minister has no understanding at all of the damage done by the closure of the mines.

“To attempt to turn one of the most divisive and destructive periods in British history into a retrospective victory for the environment is deeply offensive to the people and communities who faced considerable hardship and misery.”

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SNP MP for Midlothian Owen Thompson said the Prime Minister had proved himself “completely out of touch with Scotland” with an “unbelievably crass joke about Margaret Thatcher's damaging legacy.”

He added: "The Thatcher years might have been a spiffing time for Johnson, who was busy partying in the elite Bullingdon Club, but in the real world Thatcher devastated communities across Scotland.

"There are many families across Scottish communities whose lives still bear the scars of Thatcher’s industrial vandalism. It beggar's belief that anyone would joke about that.

"Johnson's trip has been a disaster from start to finish. He has confirmed every worst stereotype of a Westminster Tory Prime Minister toward Scotland – arrogant, out-of-touch, elitist and patronising."

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And Scottish Greens Central Scotland MSP Gillian Mackay said: “Thatcher’s decimation of the coal industry had absolutely nothing to do with environmentalism and everything to do with her despicable anti-trade union ideology.

“Communities across Scotland were decimated by these cruel and vindictive policies which destroyed industry and left workers high and dry.

“It’s no surprise that Boris Johnson eulogises Thatcher, but we must ensure his government don’t repeat her actions as Scotland begins to transition from oil and gas to our renewables future.

“The Scottish Greens won’t allow the Tories to repeat the mistakes of the past. We will fight for a fair transition for workers that sees their jobs guaranteed in the sustainable industries of the future.”

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