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Channelling Maggie again, Keir? Starmer says ‘wealth creation’ is Labour’s ‘number one priority’ as he seeks stable economic growth and vows not to splurge money if in power – amid left-wing backlash over praise for Thatcher


Sir Keir Starmer responded to left-wing fury over his praise for Margaret Thatcher today – by saying that ‘wealth creation’ was now Labour‘s ‘number one priority’.

The Opposition leader used a speech in London to set out the party’s economic pitch for the next election – with a warning that anyone expecting him to open the spending taps was going to be ‘disappointed’.

The intervention came as a furious spat with the Labour left raged over the leader heaping praise on the Iron Lady.

Sir Keir used an article yesterday to hail the Conservative doyenne’s ‘driving sense of purpose’ and for dragging Britain ‘out of its stupor’ by unleashing ‘entrepreneurialism’.

And today at the Resolution Foundation Conference he spoke about Labour plans for ‘securonomics’ – stable economic growth with a foundation on boosting productivity.

Describing the latter as an ‘obsession’, he said: ‘That’s a big change for us. Having wealth creation as your number one priority, that’s not always been the Labour Party’s comfort zone – trust me!

‘But that’s the change I knew was necessary, that’s the change I’ve delivered, and my party is united behind it.’

The Opposition leader used a speech in London to set out the party's economic pitch for the next election - with a warning that anyone expecting him to open the spending taps was going to be 'disappointed'.

The Opposition leader used a speech in London to set out the party’s economic pitch for the next election – with a warning that anyone expecting him to open the spending taps was going to be ‘disappointed’.

The intervention comes as a furious spat with the Labour left rages over the party leader heaping praise on Margaret Thatcher

The intervention comes as a furious spat with the Labour left rages over the party leader heaping praise on Margaret Thatcher

Following the cost-of-living crisis and with the economy bumping along the bottom, Sir Keir argued in his address at a Resolution Foundation conference that ‘Britain is going backwards’ under Rishi Sunak.

He accused the Tories of being ready to ‘salt the earth of British prosperity, in pursuit of its political strategy’

‘It is already clear that the decisions the Government are taking, not to mention their record over the past 13 years, will constrain what a future Labour government can do,’ Sir Keir told the gathering.

‘Seriously – never before has a British government asked its people to pay so much, for so little.’

Labour’s approach will be what he and shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves have dubbed ‘securonomics’.

It will see a focus on supporting the UK’s ‘huge assets’ — its financial sector, highly educated population and world class universities — by carrying out supply-side reforms.

He pledged to tackle restrictive planning laws, create a competitive tax regime, place more emphasis on skills, and draw up an industrial strategy alongside business.

Sir Keir S said that a partnership with business ‘must have a purpose’, as he stressed the need to improve the lot of workers.

‘This is a Labour Party more committed to working with private enterprise than ever before, but a partnership must have a purpose.

‘And the returns of private enterprise must be better shared: your country needs higher investment, your workers need a fairer return and both will be good for your productivity.

‘We will broker a new deal – with increased mental health support – a fully-funded plan to cut NHS waiting lists.

‘An end to zero hour contracts. No more fire and rehire.

‘A bold new Act to stamp out racial injustice and a real living wage.’

Sir Keir faced a major backlash from opponents on both Left and Right, who said his Thatcher comments were a nakedly cynical ploy to win the votes of Tory supporters.

Sent out to tour broadcast studios this morning, Labour frontbencher Pat McFadden pointed out that Gordon Brown had a similar response when he invited Baroness Thatcher to Downing Street for tea.

However, Mr McFadden also refused to say he ‘admired’ Lady Thatcher, merely saying she was ‘electorally successful’. 

Even some of Sir Keir’s own MPs from the Left of the party were withering about his remarks.

Labour’s Beth Winter, MP for Cynon Valley in Wales, said: ‘Margaret Thatcher devastated working-class communities like mine. Policies like the grossly iniquitous poll tax and the great privatisation rip-off offs were the hallmarks of Thatcherism.’

Her colleague Ian Byrne said: ‘Inequality, hunger, destitution and misery. That’s the real legacy left by Thatcher.’

And Kim Johnson, Labour MP for Liverpool Riverside, said: ‘Margaret Thatcher destroyed industries, attacked trade unionists and privatised our core industries. [She is] not someone any Labour supporter should look up to.’

Sir Keir’s comments were gleefully seized upon by nationalist politicians in Scotland — where Mrs Thatcher remains a hate figure for many — who are desperate to see off the threat of a resurgent Labour Party.

Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf said: ‘What Thatcher did to mining and industrial communities was not ‘entrepreneurialism’ — it was vandalism.’

Other critics highlighted Sir Keir’s previous vocal opposition to the Iron Lady’s flagship policies of privatisation and taming the trade unions.

Sir Keir will argue in his address at a Resolution Foundation conference that 'Britain is going backwards' under Rishi Sunak

Sir Keir will argue in his address at a Resolution Foundation conference that ‘Britain is going backwards’ under Rishi Sunak

As a young Left-wing lawyer, Sir Keir was even praised by union leader Arthur Scargill for defending striking miners for free.

Tory chairman Richard Holden said: ‘Keir Starmer will say anything to get elected. This is yet another classic example of him saying what he thinks people want to hear, despite having a track record of doing the opposite.’

Health Secretary Victoria Atkins told Sky News: ‘I suspect the great lady herself would view a man that is trying to ride on the coat tails of her success with the following words: ‘No, no, no.’ ‘

Tory Backbencher Brendan Clarke-Smith added: ‘The public realise Starmer will say whatever he thinks people want to hear.

‘They will be flabbergasted at his praise for Margaret Thatcher — especially when he has previously portrayed himself as a champion of mineworkers.

‘It’s just the latest flip-flop and goes to show that both he and Labour can’t be treated seriously.’

In an opinion piece for the Sunday Telegraph, Sir Keir extended the ‘hand of friendship’ to traditional Tory supporters by promising a Labour government would be tough on immigration.

He described several seismic moments in modern British politics, from post-war PM Clement Attlee deciding Labour must be a party of duty to Tony Blair seizing the optimism of the 1990s.

‘Margaret Thatcher sought to drag Britain out of its stupor by setting loose our natural entrepreneurialism,’ Sir Keir wrote. In an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Broadcasting House, he explained: ‘The point I’m making is that you can distinguish political leaders into those that had a plan and those that drifted.’

Of Mrs Thatcher he said she had ‘a plan for entrepreneurialism’. He insisted: ‘It doesn’t mean I agree with what she did, but I don’t think anybody could suggest she didn’t have a sense of purpose.’

Asked if he was seeking Tory votes, Sir Keir said ‘yes’, adding: ‘I do want to persuade those that voted Tory in the past to vote Labour this time round.’



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