British Prime Minister Boris Johnson sparked a wave of outrage by claiming that Margaret Thatcher’s closure of coal mines, despite the high social cost, allowed the UK to be ahead of the energy transition.
When asked about the progress made in this area during a visit to a wind farm in Scotland on Thursday, August 5, the head of the Conservative government insisted.
Mr Johnson said, “Thanks to Margaret Thatcher, who has closed a large number of coal mines across the country, we started early and are now moving away from coal rapidly.”
The coal mines, once the most important industrial sector in the United Kingdom, are inextricably linked to the country’s economic and social history, and in the 1980s became a symbol of opposition to the ultra-liberalism of the Prime Minister at the time.
The closing of the mines led to harsh strikes and violence. Today, many old mining sites remain devastated, with a high rate of unemployment.
The Prime Minister‘s comment has been described as “shameful” by Keir Starmer, Labor opposition leader, who said, “By joking aside the devastating repercussions of the closures, he shows how out of touch he is with the workers,” while demanding for an apology from the leader.
The Prime Ministers of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon and of Wales Mark Drakeford also denounced remarks “rude and lacking insensitivity”.
“Lives and entire communities in Scotland have been wiped out by Thatcher’s destruction of the coal industry which had nothing to do with any worries about the planet,” Nicola Sturgeon commented following Mr Johnson’s statement.
With the exception of a few small sites, the last coal mines in the UK closed in 2015.
Boris Johnson’s comments drew even more attention as his party, with a pro-Brexit platform and promises of economic rebalancing, made spectacular gains in the last legislative elections in the deindustrialized regions of the North of England, traditionally held by Labor.