During a two-day visit to Scotland, Mr Johnson was quizzed about preparations for the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in November.
Pushed on whether he would set a deadline for ending the extraction of fossil fuels, he said the UK had already transitioned away from coal in his lifetime, and he suggested Mrs Thatcher had inadvertently got the ball rolling.
He said: “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.”
He is reported to have laughed and told reporters: “I thought that would get you going.”
Easington MP Grahame Morris responding to the Prime Minister’s comments said:
“Pushing Thatcher as some sort of eco warrior for closing coal mines is a rewriting of history. The truth is she did not express any regrets or have a care about the mining communities or the life chance of our people following the wholesale closure of the Industry.
Any serious commentator can pretty much chart the hardship and deprivation of our mining communities with the loss of the mining and industry and loss of secure employment.
Closing coal mines had nothing to do with saving the environment, it was an assault on a way of life, on trade unions and on communities that did not fit with Thatcher’s free market, brand of conservatism that worshipped money, speculation, the City of London and greed over community and society.”