Boris Johnson urged to apologise for ‘shameful’ praise of Thatcher coal mine closures

‘To treat that as something to laugh about is crass and deeply insensitive’

Boris Johnson dodges question on oilfield development

Labour is demanding an apology from Boris Johnson after he said Britain owed its escape from reliance on coal energy to Margaret Thatcher’s closure of the mines in the 1980s.

The prime minister was reported to have chuckled as he made the comment about his Tory predecessor’s wholesale closure of pits, which led to the bitterly divisive miners’ strike of 1984-85.

Speaking during a visit to a wind-farm off the coast of Scotland, Mr Johnson said that the UK’s dependence on coal for its electricity had fallen from 70-80 per cent in his childhood to less than one per cent now largely “thanks to” Lady Thatcher.

“We’ve transitioned away from coal in my lifetime,” he said. “Thanks to Margaret Thatcher, who closed so many coal mines across the country, we had a big early start and we’re now moving rapidly away from coal altogether.”

Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy called on the PM to apologise.

“These are shameful comments from the prime minister, and reveal the Conservative party’s utter disregard for the communities still scarred by Thatcher’s closure of the mines and failure to deliver good new jobs in their place,” she said.

“Without investment in good, green jobs as we move away from fossil fuels, the Conservatives risk repeating the mistakes of the past. It is vital that the green transition is a fair transition.

“The prime minister should apologise.”

Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon also condemned the comments.

“Lives and 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,” she tweeted.

“To treat that as something to laugh about is crass and deeply insensitive.”

And Welsh first minister Mark Drakeford told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Those remarks are both crass and offensive. The damage done to Welsh coal-mining areas 30 years ago was incalculable, and here we are, 30 years later, the Tories are still celebrating what they did.”

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