Keir Starmer has called on Boris Johnson to “apologise immediately” after the Prime Minister laughed while saying Margaret Thatcher gave a “big early start” to green energy by closing “so many coal mines across the country”.
On a visit to Scotland, Johnson was asked about Starmer’s call for a “hard-edged” timetable for the end of oil and gas exploration. He replied: “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 [laughs] across the country, we had a big early start and we’re now moving rapidly away from coal altogether.”
The Labour leader has now released a video attacking the comments, described as “crass and deeply insensitive” by SNP First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, and highlighting his own work representing miners in court in the 1980s.
Starmer said: “Yesterday, Boris Johnson laughed about Margaret Thatcher closing coal mines. Utterly shameful. I represented the NUM [National Union of Mineworkers] in court as the Tories’ pit closures caused mass job losses, jobs the miners knew wouldn’t be replaced.
“We won that case, but the Tories later forced through the closures anyway. And just as the miners feared, the jobs were never replaced. As the Tories didn’t show an ounce of respect for these communities, they didn’t invest in them – or the next generation of jobs.
“The miners knew the impact on their communities would be devastating. And they were right. I stood by the miners under the Tories and I stand by their communities now. These communities contributed so much to the success of our country, and then they were abandoned.
“The Tories didn’t care then, and they don’t care now. To treat the pain and suffering caused to our coal mine communities as a punchline shows just how out of touch Boris Johnson is. The Prime Minister must apologise immediately.”
Downing Street has declined to apologise for Johnson’s comments but said the Prime Minister “recognises the huge impact and pain” that was felt by communities at the time of the pit closures.