A TOP Labour MP has claimed Margaret Thatcher oversaw a “decade of national renewal for our country” – in the latest instance of the party praising the divisive former Tory prime minister.

Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Darren Jones, shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves’s righthand man, said Labour wanted to ape her programme of “economic growth and wealth creation”.

Speaking on Times Radio on Tuesday morning, Jones said: “Both Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair delivered that decade of national renewal for our country, in terms of economic growth and wealth creation. Clearly, I prefer the Tony Blair version to the Margaret Thatcher version, given that there were people that suffered as a consequence of Thatcher’s approach.”

When she took power in 1979, Thatcher’s tough economic policies saw two years of recession, followed by an economic boom for much of the rest of the 1980s, broken only by a recession in 1991.

READ MORE: Keir Starmer's praise of Margaret Thatcher an 'insult' to Scotland, says Humza Yousaf

Unemployment rocketed during her time in office, with Scottish oil reserves being used in large part to fund the soaring welfare bill.

It is not the first time that Labour have praised Thatcher, with Keir Starmer in December praising her for having “sought to drag Britain out of its stupor by setting loose our natural entrepreneurialism”.

The National: A cloud of suspicion remains over deals conducted by Margaret Thatcher's son while she was in Number 10

Thatcher (above) remains hated by many on the left, with her detractors accusing her of throwing many industrial communities – especially miners – on the scrapheap.

Others accuse her of sowing the seeds of the current housing crisis by overseeing the sell-off of council houses while house prices took off.

READ MORE: Scotland's oil funded Margaret Thatcher's transformation of Britain

The SNP said Labour would "sell their soul for a chance at power". 

Drew Hendry, the party's economy spokesperson, said: "With each passing day, Sir Keir Starmer's Labour Party are showing people in Scotland exactly who they are. 

"They are a Party willing to sell their soul for a chance at power."

He also urged Reeves to "come clean" on whether Labour would cut public services, with the shadow chancellor and the Tories being accused by the influential Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) of a "conspiracy of silence" on spending cuts

Hendry added: "Labour will claim this is a new chapter in Britain's economic history, but it’s simply a new chapter in the same economic handbook used by the Tories.

"The IFS has been clear that there is a 'conspiracy of silence' between the Tories and Labour on public service cuts. Rachel Reeves and Labour need to finally come clean on their austerity plans and answer that £20 billion question.

"Sir Keir Starmer's vision for the future centres around a harmful Brexit, nearly £20bn worth of public services cuts, and offering up the possibility of selling off our National Health Service."

The National:

Greens MSP Maggie Chapman (above) said: “Far from a decade of national renewal, Thatcher was responsible for some of the most damaging and destructive policies that have ever been inflicted on Scotland and the rest of the UK.

“Her failed economic vision enriched a small number of bankers, but it ripped hopes and jobs from so many in our communities and plunged households and families across our country into grinding poverty.

“The last Labour government doubled down on some of her worst policies, embracing the super-rich and taking the privatisation of our services to levels she could only have dreamt of."

Alba said Labour had "forfeited any right to speak on behalf of working people". 

Kenny MacAskill, the party's deputy leader, added: "That Labour has so departed from its working class and socialist roots that a front bench spokesperson can make this statement is shameful but sadly no longer surprising.

“A ‘decade of national renewal’? Tell that to the miners and the steelworkers who were flung onto the scrap heap as a direct consequence of Thatcher’s policies.

“Tell that to the three million people who were unemployed during the 1980s.

“The deindustrialisation of our traditional industries and the wholesale destruction of whole communities dependent on them will forever be Thatcher’s legacy in Scotland as will be the plundering of our massive oil resources."

Jones has been accused of "rewriting history" with his praise for Thatcher. Former Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said: "In the 1980s manufacturing was butchered, factory after factory closed, privatisation was let rip, unemployment rocketed, profits boomed, the wage share fell, the rich got richer, and inequality soared.

"No rewriting of history. Thatcher didn't renew the economy, she broke it."

Political commentator and National columnist Owen Jones criticised the Labour MP’s comments, saying: “Labour shadow ministers are now peddling lies about Thatcherism. Average growth in the 1980s was almost exactly the same as the benighted 1970s.

“It was just less evenly distributed and accompanied with mass unemployment – and devastated communities which never recovered.”