The Labour leader says Conservative PM set loose “our natural entrepreneurialism”.
Sir Keir Starmer has credited Margaret Thatcher as a prime minister who effected “meaningful change”.
The Labour leader said Baroness Thatcher set loose Britain’s “natural entrepreneurialism” in an article in the Sunday Telegraph.
In a clear pitch to Conservative voters, Sir Keir highlighted immigration and small boat crossings as “matters of serious public concern”.
Sir Keir also praised Labour PMs Tony Blair and Clement Attlee.
“Every moment of meaningful change in modern British politics begins with the realisation that politics must act in service of the British people, rather than dictating to them,” Sir Keir wrote.
“Margaret Thatcher sought to drag Britain out of its stupor by setting loose our natural entrepreneurialism.
“Tony Blair reimagined a stale, outdated Labour Party into one that could seize the optimism of the late 90s.
“A century ago, Clement Attlee wrote that Labour must be a party of duty and patriotism, not abstract theory.”
Sir Keir’s comments about Baroness Thatcher may anger some on the left of the Labour Party.
But Sir Keir told Broadcasting House on BBC Radio 4, that the point of his article was to compare what he described as the “drift” of recent years with the “sense of mission” of previous leaders.
He said his praise “does not mean I agree with what she did, but I don’t think anyone can suggest she didn’t have a sense of purpose”.
In his article in the traditionally conservative Sunday Telegraph – Sir Keir sought to highlight how Labour had changed from the party of 2019 under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.
“Across Britain there are people who feel disillusioned, frustrated, angry, worried,” he wrote.
“Many of them have always voted Conservative but feel that their party has left them. I understand that. I saw that with my own party and acted to fix it.”
He also accuses the government of squandering economic opportunities and failing to “realise the possibilities of Brexit”.
Sir Keir, a former Remain supporter, unsuccessfully campaigned for a second referendum while shadow Brexit secretary in Mr Corbyn’s shadow cabinet between 2016 and 2020.
As Labour leader, he has insisted there is no case for re-joining the EU.
The next general election must take place by 28 January 2025 but is widely expected to be held next year. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will decide when to call the election.
The Conservatives are currently trailing in the polls, and Labour won two key by-elections in October.