Can Sir Keir's Maggie gamble actually pay off and see him crowned 'King of the North'

4 December 2023, 11:12

Can Sir Keir's Maggie gamble actually pay off and see him crowned 'King of the North'
Can Sir Keir's Maggie gamble actually pay off and see him crowned 'King of the North'. Picture: LBC/Alamy

By StephenRigley

It 2023 not 1983 and Margaret Thatcher has been dead for 10 years, so as we hurtle headfirst into an election year should her legacy still matter.

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But Keir Starmer has taken a huge political gamble in invoking her legacy and praising her for 'unlocking Britain's entrepreneurial spirit'.

Is she still 'Mrs Thatcher, milk snatcher' responsible for the poll tax and Britain's industrial decline?

Or is she now simply the 'Iron Lady'? She was victorious in the Falkland Islands and at the ballot box, secured a rebate from Europe long before the never-ending grief of Brexit, turned the City of London into a world financial leader and unlocked the dream of homeownership for millions.

To win next year's election Sir Keir knows he needs to become 'King of the North'. The Red Wall needs to be smashed, Labour voters need to return to the fold accompanied by disaffected Tories.

The Tories are weak and by conjuring up the legacy of Thatcher he could ensure Labour claims the crown as the party of 'aspiration' and in the process destroy the Conservative's reputation on immigration.

After all many Red Wall voters turned blue in 2019 due to that one issue.

And what better way is there to move on from the Jeremy Corbyn years than praise the hard-left's 'Public Enemy Number One'

It is not that long ago that then Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell was forced to apologise after joking that he would like to go back in time to assassinate Thatcher.

But will Sir Keir's Maggie-love wash in the Red Wall seats of Yorkshire, Lancashire and the industrial heartlands where her legacy is most toxic?

It has certainly upset members of his own party.

Ian Byrne, the Labour MP for Liverpool West Derby, posted on X: "Inequality, hunger, destitution & misery. That's the real legacy left by Thatcher."

The pit heads, docklands and foundries that used to provide mass employment and dominate the skyline of northern England, Scotland and Wales are no more.

Many of these communities have failed to rebuild and are a shadow of their former selves. The sight of boarded-up factories and shops is commonplace.

And for many Sir Keir is a 'London leftie lawyer' who hasn't appealed to the North in the way Boris Johnson or Tony Blair did.

Can he do it?

There is no doubting his ambition but let's not forget the shadow cabinet has failed to condemn the public sector strikes and Starmer tax raid on private schools will not appeal to the middle classes.

It's a big gamble but the prize of becoming 'King of the North' is too big too ignore.