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Sir Keir Starmer, head of the UK’s opposition Labour party, has heaped praise on Margaret Thatcher in a pitch to Tory voters, provoking a backlash from both leftwing activists and the Conservative party.
Starmer chose The Telegraph, the rightwing newspaper considered the house journal of Tory members, as the platform for his thoughts on the former Conservative prime minister.
He lauded Thatcher as one of three key change-makers in modern British political history, alongside Tony Blair and Clement Attlee, who realised that “politics must act in service of the British people, rather than dictating to them”.
Thatcher, a three-time election winner, “sought to drag Britain out of its stupor by setting loose our natural entrepreneurialism”, Starmer wrote.
Expounding on his thoughts on Sunday, he told BBC Radio 4’s Broadcasting House that Thatcher had had a “mission” and “driving sense of purpose”.
In a reflection of how toxic the country’s first female prime minister’s legacy remains among many Labour politicians and voters, Starmer was at pains to insist his article “doesn’t mean I agree with what she did”.
He reportedly described Thatcherism as an “authoritarian onslaught” in a socialist magazine in the 1980s. Other Labour frontbenchers have also been highly critical of her policies.
Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting has in the past heaped censure on her “sink or swim mentality” towards jobs, while on Sunday shadow business secretary Jonathan Reynolds told Sky News she was a “formidable opponent” but stressed he was not a fan.
Starmer told the BBC that Labour would emulate Thatcher’s “sense of mission”, arguing the country had “drifted” and “declined” during the past 13 years of Conservative-led rule.
Asked if he was seeking Tory votes, he replied “yes”, adding: “I do want to…
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