What did Rachel Reeves really say about Margaret Thatcher?

What did Rachel Reeves really say about Margaret Thatcher?

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Sky News

While Rishi Sunak’s Conservative Party is deliberating over its leadership (the prime minister is meeting with the 1922 Committee of backbench MPs on Wednesday), the Labour Party has come under fire after Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, made reference to divisive PM Margaret Thatcher’s government at the end of the 1970s.

The Leeds West MP delivered this year’s Mais Lecture at City, University of London on Tuesday evening, in which she said that – like in the 1970s – Britain is “in a moment of flux” in which “the economic mainstream is adapting, but a new political consensus has yet to cohere”.

She added: “Once again, we have found ourselves in a moment of political turbulence and recurrent crises with the burden falling on the shoulders of working people – with at its root, a failure to deliver the supply side reform needed to equip Britain to compete in a fast-changing world.”

Reeves never once mentioned Thatcher by name, but she did touch upon what happened “at the end of the 1970s", which was when the Iron Lady came to power until 1990.

The politician continued: “As we did at the end of the 1970s, we stand at an inflection point. And as in earlier decades, the solution lies in wide-ranging supply-side reform, to drive investment, remove the barriers constraining our productive capacity, and fashion a new economic settlement, drawing on evolutions in economic thought.

“A new chapter in Britain’s economic history, and unlike the 1980s, growth in the years to come must be broad-based, inclusive and resilient.”

Reeves also referred to the demand for “a decade of national renewal” – echoing a phrase used by the late Tory prime minister.

She also took aim at Thatcher’s approach by saying “the idea of a trade-off between the strong economy and the good society is a mirage that belongs in the 1980s”.

While it’s far from an explicit endorsement of the former leader, Reeves was more vocal in her praise of Thatcher late last year, when she told the Mail on Sunday that “[her] generation of women, of course we have been influenced by her”.

“Whether you agree with her or not, she smashed glass ceilings and shifted the boundaries. You’d be foolish not to recognise that.”

Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy went further in an interview with POLITICO's Power Play podcast, and said Thatcher was a “visionary leader for the UK”.

The controversy also made its way into Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s Questions, when Westminster leader of the Scottish National Party, Stephen Flynn, took a swipe at Labour when asking Sunak a question.

“With his backbenchers looking for a unity candidate to replace him, which of the numerous born-again Thatcherites on the Labour frontbench best fit the bill,” he asked.

The comments about Thatcher from the Labour frontbenchers have since been met with condemnation from social media users – including members of their own political party:

Thatcher praise has also come from leader Sir Keir Starmer, who back in December wrote a piece for the Sunday Telegraph in which he said the Tory “sought to drag Britain out of its stupor by setting loose our natural entrepreneurialism”.

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