Boris Johnson Heavily Criticised For Praising Margaret Thatcher Around Climate Change

by : Hannah Smith on :
Boris Johnson Heavily Criticised For Praising Margaret Thatcher Around Climate ChangePA Images

There are plenty of heroic environmental activists worth praising for raising awareness about the dangers of climate change, and it’s fair to say Margaret Thatcher probably isn’t one of them.

Yet, rather than highlighting the work of people like Greta Thunberg or David Attenborough, Boris Johnson has instead been focusing on the UK’s first female prime minister, claiming that her decision to close Britain’s coal mines gave the country ‘a big early start’ in the fight against climate change.


The Thatcher government’s destruction of the coal industry cost tens of thousands of people their jobs, and devastated the local communities that had grown up around coal mines in the north of England, Wales and Scotland. It also sparked widespread civil unrest as millions protested against the closures, as well as one of the largest strikes in British history.

Boris Johnson (PA Images)PA Images

With all that in mind, it’s hardly surprising that Johnson’s attempt to revise history and paint the closures as an environmental masterstroke hasn’t exactly gone down well. The prime minister’s comments were immediately condemned by regional leaders who demanded an apology, including Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon, who said in a tweet, ‘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).’

Welsh first minister Mark Drakeford also responded, telling BBC News, ‘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.’


A report conducted 20 years after the 1984 miner’s strike and reported on by The Guardian found that 222,000 jobs in mining and related activities had been lost, with all of the 170 coal mines operating in the UK having closed by 2015.

Miner's Strike (PA Images)PA Images

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In fairness to Thatcher, the former prime minister was aware of the risks of global warming, having told the United Nations in 1989 that greenhouse gases were ‘changing the environment of our planet in damaging and dangerous ways’.

But there’s no indication the environment was a factor in the pit closures, or that it would have justified the scale of the damage done to mining communities.


According to BBC News, many of Johnson’s allies had ‘their head in their hands’ after hearing his comments, describing them as ‘crass’, ‘not helpful’ and an ‘unforced error’.

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Hannah Smith

Hannah Smith is a London-based journalist at UNILAD. After studying History at UCL she worked for print publications on both sides of the pond, including spells at Harper's Magazine and The Times, before graduating with an MA in Newspaper Journalism from City, University of London.

Topics: News, Boris Johnson, Climate Change, Now, UK Politics


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    Boris Johnson faces backlash over Thatcher coal mines comment