Boris Johnson accused of "insulting every former pitworker" after he praised Thatcher's mine closures for impact on climate change

The General secretary of the National Union of Miners (NUM) has accused the Prime Minister of insulting every former pitworker after he said Margaret Thatcher’s campaign of closures in the 1980s gave the UK a headstart on climate change.

Number 10 declined to apologise for the comments yesterday but said Mr Johnson understands the suffering of former mining communities .

Boris Johnson made the comments towards the end of a two-day trip to Scotland.

He was pressed on whether he would set a deadline for ending fossil fuel extraction as he visited a giant wind farm off the coast of Scotland on Thursday.

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The Prime Minister hailed existing action to move to greener forms of power, stating when he was a child 70 per cent to 80 per cent of all electricity had been coal-generated – with this falling to 40 per cent by the time he became London mayor.

“Since then, it’s gone right down to one per cent, or sometimes less,” 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 big early start and we’re now moving rapidly away from coal altogether.”

Number 10 declined to apologise for the comments yesterday but said Mr Johnson understands the suffering of former mining communities .

However, Chris Kitchen, Barnsley-based NUM general secretary of the NUM, told The Yorkshire Post: “Boris’s comments were an insult to every former mineworker, to the communities that were devastated by Thatcher’s actions.

“Trying to draw a positive from something that was nothing more than a vendetta against the miners by Thatcher and the Tory government at the time is beyond words.

“I was shocked at the way he made the comments jokingly. This is supposed to be our Prime Minister.”

Mr Kitchen also pointed to Mr Johnson’s lack of action to address mineworkers’ pensions.

He demanded that the Prime Minister takes urgent action after the Government rejected a report from the Business Committee to transfer a £1.2bn fund into the hands of miners.

“It really got to me when you consider that he’s reneged on his election pledge of 2019 to sort the pension scheme and give us the money back. There’s no moral justification for it,” Mr Kitchen added.

Barnsley East MP Steph Peacock said: “The Tory pit closures were nothing to do with the environment and everything to do with destroying working class communities and the ties that bound them together.

“The Prime Minister has shown his true colours, laughing at the destruction of communities such as those in Barnsley.”

The last colliery in the UK at Kellingley closed in 2015.