Sir Keir Starmer praised Margaret Thatcher because she was a Prime Minister who “got things done,” one of the Labour leader’s closest allies said on Monday.
Pat McFadden MP defended Sir Keir for naming the former Tory leader for her achievements, comments which have sparked a backlash among some of the party’s supporters.
Asked about Sir Keir’s Thatcher remarks, Mr McFadden, Labour’s National Campaign Co-ordinator, told Times Radio: “There is a long history to this in recent years.
“Gordon Brown had Margaret Thatcher in for tea in No10 when he was Prime Minister and described her as a conviction politican who saw the need for change.
“Tony Blair said she was a towering figure.
“The reason that Labour leaders have said these things and the reason Keir Starmer said what he said yesterday was...he thinks there are really two types of Prime Minister.
“One that really gets things done and alongside Mrs Thatcher he put Tony Blair and Clement Attlee.
“And others who get buffeted around by events.
“He wants to be in the former camp and to be a conviction Prime Minister with a big sense of mission who gets things done.”
He stressed Labour had changed after being “thumped four times in elections” and was now appealing “to some voters who have been voting Conservative in recent years,” putting economic stability and national security at the heart of its policies, compared to the 2019 General Election.
Sir Keir used an article in The Sunday Telegraph to praise pro-privatisation Thatcher for having “set loose our natural entrepreneurialism”.
But his comments angered some Labour supporters and activists who accuse her of destroying communities, particularly in the North of England and Scotland.
Discussing Labour’s chances at the next general election, Mr McFadden acknowledged on LBC Radio that “there is no path to victory that doesn’t include appealing to people who’ve been voting Conservative in recent years”.
In a speech on Monday, Sir Keir will argue that “growth must become Labour’s obsession” in government to drive Britain out of an economic situation that he will say is worse than after the financial crash.
The Labour leader is set to pledge that, should his party win the next general election, his ministers will be “ruthless” when it comes to prudent public spending.
Labour will face “huge constraints” on what it can spend following 13 years of Conservative mishandling of the economy, he is set to declare during a speech on Monday.
Following a cost-of-living crisis and stagnant growth, Sir Keir will use his speech to put forward the argument that “Britain is going backwards” under Rishi Sunak’s stewardship.
He will declare the “political consensus” that hard work will be rewarded has “become nothing short of a lie for millions of people” under the Tories.
Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey last week suggested the UK economy’s potential to grow was among the worst he had seen in his lifetime, while the Office for Budget Responsibility has downgraded its forecasts for the coming years.
In an address at the Resolution Foundation think tank’s Ending Stagnation conference, Sir Keir will set out his stall for why voters should trust his party with reviving the economy ahead of a likely general election in 2024.
Sir Keir will tell the conference that those expecting an incoming Labour government to “quickly turn on the spending taps” will be “disappointed”.
“Growth will have to become Labour’s obsession if we are to turn around the economy,” he will say.
Sir Keir, who is on course for Downing Street according to opinion polling, was set to point to declining living standards under successive Tory prime ministers, concluding that the governing party’s record “has been a bad bargain for the British people”.
“This Parliament is on track to be the first in modern history where living standards in this country have actually contracted,” he was expected to say.
Labour’s approach will be what he and shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves have dubbed “securonomics”.
Tory leader Mr Sunak has made growing the economy one of his five pledges to the electorate ahead of the election.
Conservative Party chairman Richard Holden said: “The largest ‘constraint’ to growing the economy would be Labour’s £28 billion a year borrowing plan, which independent economists warn would see inflation, interest rates and people’s taxes rise.
“It is the same old short-term approach from Labour - borrow more and the British people will pay more.
“Instead of talking down Britain like the Labour Party, the Chancellor unveiled 110 measures for growth at the autumn statement, including the biggest tax cut for businesses investing in Britain in modern history - taking the long-term decisions to strengthen the economy.”
Economists, including at the Resolution Foundation, have warned that Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s £20 billion of tax cuts in last month’s autumn statement were in effect being paid for on the back of future painful spending cuts for already-squeezed Whitehall departments and public services in future years, and were dwarfed by tax rises already announced.