POLITICS

Ed Miliband 'Similar' To Margaret Thatcher, Says Tory MP

15/04/2013 08:55 BST | Updated 15/04/2013 14:26 BST

Ed Miliband has a lot in common with Margaret Thatcher, according to one of the former prime minister's friends.

It may not be a comparison the Labour leader will like, but for the Tory MP and former confidante of Thatcher who made it, nothing could be meant as higher praise.

Conor Burns told BBC Radio 5 Live's Pienaar's Politics on Sunday evening: "There is a similarity between Ed Miliband and Margaret Thatcher, in opposition terms, they are both unusual in that they are interested in ideas, they are interested in intellectual political argument."

"When he started his performances were faltering, they weren't getting a very good press, he had a tiny margin of victory over his brother, there were serious reservations about how he would cope," Burns observed.

But he said Thatcher also grew in stature in opposition, noting a 1977 editorial in The Times that said she had "all the charisma of a privet hedge".

"Leading parties in opposition is incredibly difficult. Ed Miliband has become much more sure footed, his performances have improved, there is a unuity of purpose in the Labour Party."

Burns also praised Miliband's well-received party conference speech. "He was advancing serious arguments, I don't necessary agree with them, but they were serious arguments," Burns said.

The Bournemouth West MP, who delivered his Commons tribute to Thatcher from the same spot she made her maiden speech in parliament, also welcomed Miliband's contribution. "He performed brilliantly, absolutely brilliant, on Wednesday."

Burns added: "He is a really, really nice guy, acoss parliament he talks to us all, he makes time for you, he is a genuinly nice bloke."

During his tribute, Miliband highlighted Thatcher's commitment to "ideas" that Burns said he saw in the Labour leader as well.

"What was unusual was that she sought to be rooted in people's daily lives, but she also believed that ideology mattered. Not for her the contempt sometimes heaped on ideas and new thinking in political life," he told MPs.

"And while she never would have claimed to be, or wanted to be seen as, an intellectual, she believed, and she showed, that ideas matter in politics."

On Sunday it was revealed that Miliband also exhibited some of the toughness frequently attributed to Thatcher. He delivered his Commons address with a broken wrist.

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