Ex-health and foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt described the Labour leader as a “very serious threat”.
He was discussing the Labour government of Clement Attlee, which was elected in 1945 after Conservative Winston Churchill led the country through the Second World War at the head of a cross-party coalition.
Hunt, who challenged Johnson for the party leadership in 2019, urged the prime minister to use the coronavirus crisis to show the Tories are “the party of the NHS” in a bid to retain power.
The Commons health committee chair specifically urged the PM to finally produce a much awaited long-term plan for social care, to fill gaps in the NHS workforce, and to get cancer survival rates up to the levels of France and Germany.
It came as an Opinium poll for the Observer, taken on January 28 and 29, showed the Tories on 41% (+4) reestablishing a lead over Labour on 38% (-3), amid expectations of a “vaccine bounce” for Johnson ahead of May’s local elections.
Discussing Starmer on Ridge on Sunday on Sky News, Hunt likened him to Blair, who was the last Labour leader to win a general election in 2005.
Since then Gordon Brown, Ed Miliband and Jeremy Corbyn have lost elections.
Hunt told Ridge: “I think (Starmer) is a very serious threat, a much bigger threat than we’ve had for many years, indeed since Tony Blair, I would definitely say that, yes.
“On the other hand, this could be a very exciting period for this country and if you look at what is, I think, generally recognised as the most successful Labour government since the war, the Attlee government, they were running the country in a period after a great crisis, the second World War.
“They showed enormous imagination in the setting-up of the NHS in 1948.
“I think we could turn this into a 1948 moment for the country as we come out of this crisis by completely reforming the social care system, giving it a proper 10-year plan, sorting out the workforce issues in the NHS, getting our cancer survival rates to the levels of France and Germany.
“I think sometimes there are opportunities in these terrible crises and if we grasp those opportunities, Boris Johnson really can show the country that we are the party of the NHS, which is something I know he very much wants to do.”