SIR Keir Starmer has downplayed his praise for Margaret Thatcher after sparking widespread backlash.

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph this weekend, the Labour leader said the former prime minister delivered "meaningful change" to the UK.

His comments have been widely condemned across the UK's left-leaning parties, with SNP chief and First Minister Humza Yousaf calling Starmer's article an "insult" to communities in Scotland affected by her economic "vandalism".

Former Labour MSP Neil Findlay was also among the party members expressing outrage over Starmer's comments.

"Starmer is a liar, a fraud, a cheat and an imposter, he is an affront to Labour Party and betrays its historic mission," he wrote on Twitter/X. "What is the party under his ‘leadership’ offering working class voters ? The party is ahead in the polls not because of anything he has done."

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As backlash continued, Starmer told BBC Radio 4’s Broadcasting House that his comments don't necessarily mean he agrees with Thatcher's policies - but failed to condemn them.

He said: “The point I’m making in the article really is that you can distinguish political leaders, certainly in the post-war period, into those that had a plan and those that drifted essentially.

“And that’s why I referenced: Attlee, who obviously had a strong plan, New Jerusalem; Tony Blair, who captured the optimism of the 1990s having changed the Labour Party; and Thatcher, who did have a plan for entrepreneurialism, had a mission, it doesn’t mean I agree with what she did but I don’t think anybody could suggest that she didn’t have a driving sense of purpose.

“And the reason I referenced all three of them is because we’ve drifted as a country the last 13 years, we’ve declined as a country in the last 13 years, and the characteristic of an incoming Labour government – if we’re privileged enough to come in to serve – will be this sense of mission, this sense of having a plan that we’re operating to, a driving sense of purpose.”

Starmer went on to say he has “fundamentally changed” Labour compared to the Jeremy Corbyn-led party defeated at the 2019 General Election.

He added: “What I say to those many people who will have voted Tory in the past is if you believe in not just fixing your country but renewing it and taking it forward, if you want to be part of a national project that will take our country forward, build up our economy in the way we want, build our security, make sure that we take advantage of the transition that comes with the energy transition, then the Labour Party is the party for you.

“I think there are many people in that camp who say: ‘Look, I may have voted for the Tories in the past, but I do believe in my country, I do believe in a sense of purpose and the national mission is for me’.”

He added: “I do want to persuade those that have voted Tory in the past to vote Labour this time around, look again at Labour.”

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Starmer was told by the presenter that by saying such things, including about Thatcher and his stance on Israel's bombardment of Palestine, he has left some Labour members feeling unrepresented.

He replied: “My focus, whether it’s on the renewal that our country needs or the resolution of the awful situation in Israel and Gaza is not on the Labour Party members and the Labour Party movement.

“We’ve spent a decade before I became leader obsessing about our membership and having a discussion with ourselves.

“My change of the Labour Party means we’ve turned inside out and we face the voters and face the country.”