‘I wouldn’t have made the joke myself’ - Bassetlaw MP responds to Prime Minister’s controversial comments about Margaret Thatcher closing coal mines.

Bassetlaw MP Brendan-Clarke Smith said remarks made by Prime Minister Boris Johnson about former MP Margaret Thatcher closing coal mines had “clearly been made in jest”, but that he wouldn't have made the joke himself.
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In his remarks, Mr Johnson had praised the late Tory politician for giving the country a “big early start” in moving away from coal mines after shutting down 160 pits, decimating the mining industry, causing mass unemployment and bringing poverty to many coalfield communities.

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Yesterday (Aug 5), after visiting the Moray East offshore windfarm on a two-day trip in Scotland, and speaking to journalists about moving away from gas and oil fuel sources, Mr Johnson said: “Look at what we’ve done already. We’ve transitioned away from coal in my lifetime.

Brendan Clarke-Smith MP.Brendan Clarke-Smith MP.
Brendan Clarke-Smith MP.

“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 all together”.

In a statement, Mr Clarke-Smith responded: “The comment has clearly been made in jest and was said in the context of the move away from fossil fuels to renewable and clean forms of energy.

“I wouldn’t have made the joke myself and I think we all know that when an industry closes down in a community it can have a hugely detrimental effect on the local economy, which can take a generation to solve. I have seen this with my own eyes.”

The Conservative MP said that Labour’s Harold Wilson had closed 290 pits, as opposed to the 160 as a result of the Miners’ Strike in the 1980s.

“I do find it remarkable that the same people criticise the Prime Minister for his comments about pit closures, but then stand up in Parliament expecting everybody to cut out fossil fuels immediately and drive electric cars,” he added. “They can’t have it both ways.”

Mr Clarke-Smith, who is also Secretary of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Coalfield Communities, stated he is proud of the community's history and that he is fighting for miners rights.

He said: “The main thing now is to make sure we are providing good jobs for local people, both in the present and in the future. We are proud of our mining heritage in Bassetlaw and it is something to be recognised.

“I am currently fighting for miners to receive a fairer deal from the Mineworkers Pension Scheme for example. We are now entering a new age however and we must seize these new opportunities to build back better in Bassetlaw.”