Starmer defends Thatcher comments as he says he ‘completely disagrees’ with former prime minister’s politics

12 December 2023, 13:14 | Updated: 12 December 2023, 13:15

JOB-Starmer-Thatcher

By Jenny Medlicott

Sir Keir Starmer has defended comments he made about Margaret Thatcher, telling LBC that he was praising her ‘mission-driven’ leading style rather than her politics.

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Sr Keir seemed to praise Thatcher in an article he wrote earlier in December, saying that the former Tory prime minister “set loose our natural entrepreneurialism”.

His comments led to a storm of criticism from voters who labelled the Labour leader a Thatcher “fan boy” - but now Sir Keir has defended his comments.

Speaking to LBC's James O'Brien, Sir Keir insisted his words were not in support of Thatcher's politics.

James O’Brien told the Labour leader of a lifelong Labour supporter he had heard from earlier in the week who insisted he would no longer be voting for the party after his comments about Margaret Thatcher.

But the Labour leader defended his comments, as he said: “I hope he actually read what I said about that because I am absolutely determined we need mission-driven government, a government with a real sense of purpose, not drifting like the way we are at the moment.”

Sir Keir insisted his comments were not in support of Thatcher’s politics but her “mission-driven” style of leading.

He continued: “I was giving examples of leaders since the war who’ve had that sense of mission.

"Obviously Atlee, who had the mission for a new Jerusalem if you like, rebuilding after the war.

“Obviously Tony Blair in 97, the mission of the optimism of turning into a new century. but also Thatcher had a mission.

“Now I personally disagree with her mission, I disagree with what she did, that doesn’t stop me saying she had a sense of plan and mission unlike the drift that we’ve had in the last 13 years.”

Read more: Starmer praises Thatcher for 'changing UK' as he attempts to woo Tories back to voting Labour

Read more: Rishi stares down Rwanda rebels: PM tells Tory hardliners he wont pull controversial bill in last-ditch No10 talks

Sir Keir said he does not support Thatcher's politics.
Sir Keir said he does not support Thatcher's politics. Picture: Alamy

Originally writing for The Sunday Telegraph, Sir Keir said: “Across Britain, there are people who feel disillusioned, frustrated, angry, worried. Many of them have always voted Conservative but feel that their party has left them.

“I understand that. I saw that with my own party and acted to fix it. But I also understand that many will still be uncertain about Labour. I ask them to take a look at us again.”

As well as Labour voters, some left-wing MPs also hit out at the Labour leader, as Beth Winter wrote that Thatcher has “caused poverty and deprivation not seen since the Dickensian era”.

While Labour MP Ian Bryne said Thatcher’s legacy was “inequality, hunger, destitution and misery”.

But Sir Keir was determined to set the record straight, as he insisted his comments were a criticism of the political landscape over the last 13 years as well as a “statement of intent” if Labour is elected into government.

“I’d defy anybody to tell me what the defining mission or purpose has been of the last 13 years, with Atlee with Thatcher and Blair you could say what they were trying to achieve,” he continued.

“Now with Thatcher, I completely disagree with what she was trying to achieve but I’m comparing and contrasting with the last 13 years almost as a statement of intent, saying I intend the next Labour government, if we’re privileged enough to come into serve, to be mission-driven and to fix the fundamentals and not swan around pretending that sticking plasters are going to do it”.

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