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Starmer insists he’s no Thatcher ‘fan boy’, saying she did ‘terrible things’

Sir Keir Starmer has sought to calm the criticism of his perceived praise for Margaret Thatcher by telling a Scottish audience that she did “terrible things”.

The Labour leader insisted he is no fan of the former Conservative prime minister and said that he “profoundly disagrees” with some of her actions.

He said she did “huge damage” across the UK, particularly in Scotland – days after listing her as among former leaders who delivered “meaningful change”.

Keir Starmer
Sir Keir Starmer insisted in Scotland that he was no fan of Margaret Thatcher (Maja Smiejkowska/PA)

In an article for the Conservative-supporting Sunday Telegraph, he said Baroness Thatcher had sought to “drag Britain out of its stupor by setting loose our natural entrepreneurialism”.

The attempt to appeal to traditional Tory voters fell flat with some Labour supporters and he was mocked by Conservative MPs as a Thatcher “fan boy” in the Commons.

But asked whether he was a fan at a Scottish Labour gala dinner in Glasgow on Thursday evening, he said: “No, absolutely not.”

The comments, heard on an audio recording, were met with applause by the audience in Scotland, where the former Tory leader’s privatisation agenda hit particularly hard.

“She did terrible things, particularly here in Scotland which everybody in this room, myself included, profoundly disagrees with,” Sir Keir said.

“The point I was trying to make in a piece that we penned last week was that there are some political leaders who have a mission, a plan, that they implement.

“Attlee of course, was one of them, the ‘New Jerusalem’. Thatcher, whether you liked her or you didn’t like her, you couldn’t say she didn’t have a plan, or a mission.

“You can say someone has a mission and a plan and disagree profoundly with them.”

Baroness Thatcher won three general elections in her 11-year reign, but remains a divisive figure, including over the agenda of privatisation that saw the decline of industries such as coal and steel.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar did not repeat Sir Keir’s supportive comments this week, instead describing Baroness Thatcher as a “destructive force for our country”.