The prime minister has attacked the Extinction Rebellion activists protesting in London over the climate crisis, dismissing them as “uncooperative crusties” who should stop blocking the streets of the capital with their “heaving hemp-smelling bivouacs”.
Boris Johnson made the remarks at the launch of the final volume of a biography of Margaret Thatcher written by his former boss at the Daily Telegraph, Charles Moore.
Johnson claimed he was advised not to attend the event. He said: “I am afraid that the security people didn’t want me to come along tonight because they said the road was full of uncooperative crusties and protesters of all kinds littering the road. And they said there was some risk that I would be egged.”
Extinction Rebellion began a planned two-week shutdown of central London on Monday including many sites around parliament in protest against the lack of action to tackle the climate crisis. By 9.30pm 280 people had been arrested.
The book launch was held at the Royal United Services Institute on Whitehall, not far from climate demonstrators on Westminster Bridge and at Trafalgar Square.
In his remarks at the event, Johnson listed issues on which he claimed Thatcher was right, including her approach to “bring about … the end of apartheid”. According to an account of his comments briefed out by No 10 on Monday evening, he said: “I hope that when we go out from this place tonight and we are waylaid by importunate nose-ringed climate change protesters we remind them that [Thatcher] was also right about greenhouse gases.
“And she took it seriously long before Greta Thunberg. And the best thing possible for the education of the denizens of the heaving hemp-smelling bivouacs that now litter Trafalgar Square and Hyde Park, the best thing would be for them to stop blocking the traffic and buy a copy of Charles’s magnificent book so that they can learn about a true feminist, green and revolutionary who changed the world for the better.”
Thunberg, who has played a leading role in a global movement seeking action on the climate crisis, was born in 2003; 13 years after Thatcher left office.
Johnson, a former Daily Telegraph columnist, also paid tribute to Moore’s “almost obsessive lust for accuracy and detail that is the hallmark of all great Daily Telegraph journalists”.
Moore, referring to his time editing Johnson’s work at the paper, recently told the Evening Standard: “Well, it was a nightmare. Because of Boris always being so late – and I mean terribly late – with his copy. But, of course, he was a journalistic genius and had a great gift for seeing the nub of something and turning it into something exciting.”
Johnson joined the Telegraph after being fired from the Times having been accused of fabricating a quote from his own godfather.
The prime minister has used the column he formerly wrote for the paper to attack Extinction Rebellion before. Insisting in April that he did not want to condemn them because of the importance of their message, he nevertheless attacked their methods and invited them to protest in Beijing, instead of London.