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Is Starmer’s “Praise” for Thatcher All That it Seems?

Updated: May 23

Some individuals on the British left are currently expressing strong disapproval towards Keir Starmer's "praise" of Margaret Thatcher in an article he recently wrote for the Sunday Telegraph. However, if one were to read some of the comments made by certain left-leaning commentators and the statements of a couple of Labour MPs, they might mistakenly assume that Starmer's article contained nothing but unbridled admiration for the former Conservative Prime Minister's social and economic policies.

However, this was not the case. Starmer’s “praise” for Thatcher was that she brought “meaningful change” in Britain and set loose our natural entrepreneurialism”. The “meaningful change” statement that is currently making its way around the internet as evidence that Starmer is a Thatcherite is misleading at best and purposely deceiving at worst. 

The reference to Thatcher was part of a paragraph where he was describing how former Labour Prime Ministers, Blaire and Attlee, had achieved change, then added a brief reference to Thatcher at least trying to change things. This isn’t praise. Thatcher indeed changed Britain (albeit mostly for the worse) but she did strengthen the UK's relationship with Europe.

The purpose of the statement was to disprove the idea that politicians do not bring in meaningful change. By mentioning a Tory leader alongside former Labour PMs, Starmer sought to demonstrate that a Prime Minister with a vision can also bring change, and that he, like his predecessors, has a vision and, likewise, will bring change. 

It's worth noting that Keir Starmer has always been an outspoken critic of Margaret Thatcher's policies. In fact, in a recent video by the YouTube channel Different Bias, it was pointed out that Starmer, who was a lawyer at the time, did significantly more than any other Labour MP to challenge Thatcher's policies. 

While the British left during Thatcher's term was distracted by petty ideological disputes of little consequence, Starmer was busy representing striking miners in legal cases against the government pro bono, even winning many of them. What did Labour MPs at the time do? They turned up to miners' strikes in the North wearing suits that cost more than a miners' monthly salary, took photos, and then returned South, thereby making themselves unelectable in the process and paving the way for Thatcher's re-election.

The focus of Starmer’s article was on the negative impact that the Tories have had on Britain. Starmer highlighted the Conservative Party's failure with Brexit and emphasised that the Labour Party would work towards strengthening relations with the European Union and realigning with the bloc to facilitate trade. The mention of Thatcher was made in a brief, neutral statement in a single line alongside Blaire and Attlee as other PMs who changed British politics.

The Sunday Telegraph made a big fuss about this single innocuous line, even making it the focus of their headline “Starmer heaps praise on Thatcher as he woos Conservative voters”, which isn’t remotely true if you read the original article. The left-wing Daily Mirror ran with the headline “Thatcher backlash hit Starmer” on their front paper turning a non-existent issue into a major political scandal. 

Twitter is awash with Labour supporters taking a headline in a Tory-supporting newspaper at face value, without even applying a sprinkling of critical thinking, and believing everything a misleading headline told them. These are people who claim to despise the Conservatives – but they fall hook, line, and sinker for whatever a conservative-backing newspaper says in a headline without reading the text or Starmer’s original article. 

This whole situation serves as a good example of why you should always read the text, not just the sensationalist headline. 

Image: UK Parliament / Maria Unger

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