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Starmer branded Margaret Thatcher ‘fan boy’ for praising former Tory PM

Sir Keir Starmer was branded a Margaret Thatcher “fan boy” before Rishi Sunak welcomed the latest “Thatcherite” supporter during Prime Minister’s Questions.

Labour leader Sir Keir was mocked by Conservative MPs after he praised former prime minister Baroness Thatcher for having sought to “drag Britain out of its stupor by setting loose our natural entrepreneurialism”.

He named her alongside former Labour prime ministers Tony Blair and Clement Attlee as those leaders in modern British politics who sought to deliver “meaningful change” by acting “in service of the British people, rather than dictating to them”.

Speaking at PMQs, Conservative MP Sir Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) said: “It’s thanks to Margaret Thatcher and her robust treatment of militant trade unions in the West Midlands, her contribution of £10 billion at today’s prices to the motor industry in the West Midlands that iconic names like Jaguar and Land Rover still exist.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons (House of Commons/UK Parliament/PA)

Prime Minister Mr Sunak replied: “(Sir Michael) is a fantastic champion of his area and because of the pro-business policies of this Government, I’m delighted to see the billions of pounds of investment by JLR (Jaguar Land Rover) in their move towards electrification in the region.

“But he is absolutely right, I am always happy to welcome new Thatcherites from all sides of this House.

“But it does say something about the Leader of the Opposition that the main female strong leader he could praise is Margaret Thatcher and not his own fantastic deputy (Angela Rayner).”

Elsewhere, SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn asked Mr Sunak: “Is the Prime Minister worried that he is projected to be the first Conservative Party leader to lose a general election to a fellow Thatcherite?”

After PMQs, Mr Sunak’s press secretary told reporters the Tories are not worried about Sir Keir’s stance: “He’s not really fit to lace the boots of Baroness Thatcher.”

A Labour spokesman defended Sir Keir’s position, telling reporters: “Whether you agree with her or disagree with her, you can’t ignore the fact that Margaret Thatcher was a prime minister who came in with a clear sense of leadership and with a plan that she wanted to achieve.

“And that very starkly contrasts with the 13 years of drift and decline that we’ve had under the last five Conservative prime ministers who perhaps could learn something from her example.”

Asked if Sir Keir thinks Baroness Thatcher left office with the country in a better state than she found it in 1979, the spokesman said: “Those are judgments for others to make.”

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