(Bloomberg) -- Keir Starmer praised Margaret Thatcher for delivering “meaningful change” to Britain by “setting loose our natural entrepreneurism” in a Sunday Telegraph column that quickly generated backlash. 

In a move seen as a bid to curry favor with Tory voters, the Labour leader criticized the current UK government for being “too small in its ambition and ability” before listing past politicians that acted “in service of the British people rather than dictating to them.” 

As well as Conservative icon Thatcher, the UK’s first female premier and its longest-serving of the 20th century, Starmer referenced Labour leaders Tony Blair and Clement Atlee. 

Starmer directly addressed a series of core Tory issues, including Brexit, immigration and law and order. His praise of Thatcher for her promotion of “entrepreneurism” may be part of a bid to allay voter concerns that Labour is the party of high taxes and big government. 

“Across Britain there are people who feel disillusioned, frustrated, angry, worried. Many of them have always voted Conservative but feel that their party has left them. I understand that,” Starmer wrote, adding that he’s the candidate who stands “ready to deliver.” 

Starmer’s appeals to Tory voters comes ahead of the election expected in 2024. Labour holds a wide lead in most opinion polls, with Starmer looking likely to form a Labour government after Tory rule dataing back to 2010.  

The Labour leader walked back his remarks later on BBC Radio 4: “I 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,” he said. 

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