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A Corbynite MP’s description of the last Labour government as “Thatcherite” has sparked a backlash among party colleagues.
Stephen Kinnock, a senior supporter of Lisa Nandy’s leadership bid, told HuffPost UK’s Commons People podcast that Zarah Sultana was talking “utter nonsense” in her maiden Commons speech.
Kinnock joined Neil Coyle in warning that the 26-year-old’s claims were a “gift to the Tories”.
Sultana is no stranger to controversy and was forced to apologise during the election for saying she would “celebrate” the deaths of world leaders including former Labour prime minister Tony Blair.
On Wednesday, she shunned the tradition of delivering a non-controversial maiden speech, criticising Boris Johnson’s comments about Muslim women and gay men, but also turning fire on her own party’s last stint in government between 1997 and 2010.
The Coventry South MP said: “Ten years ago I was sitting my GCSEs at school. I was a teenager and I never dreamed I would be here today.
“In ten years’ time, at the start of the next decade, I want to look teenagers in the eye and say with pride – my generation faced 40 years of Thatcherism and we ended it.
“We faced rising racism and we defeated it. We faced a planet in peril - we saved it. We have our work cut out but together we can do it.”
Responding, Kinnock told Commons People: “I just am so disappointed when I hear those comments.
“It is a gift to the Conservatives.
“And what utter nonsense.
“From 1997 to 2010 we lifted millions out of poverty, we delivered the minimum wage, we created Sure Start, peace in Northern Ireland, devolution – huge, huge achievements.
“The Labour Party is the greatest force for good that British politics has ever seen and if you don’t believe that and understand that I think you have just got completely the wrong end of the stick.
“I’m always very disappointed when I hear those things.”
Kinnock admitted that Blair and successor Gordon Brown “didn’t get everything right”, saying he would never have supported the Iraq war and stressing Labour could have done more for industrial communities by having a “real industrial strategy” to address structural problems in the economy.
“But fundamentally if you look at the balance sheet we achieved a tremendous amount between 1997 and 2010 and every time Labour colleagues make those kind of comments they are simply handing a big gift to the Conservative party,” he said.
Coyle, meanwhile, mocked Sultana’s comments, adding on Twitter: “As long as the left attacks Labour for our time in government (and ignores the achievements and benefits to millions of people) it will be serving the Tories. Fatal.”
Sultana’s speech was praised by Jeremy Corbyn allies Diane Abbott and John McDonnell.
Angela Rayner, who has been congratulating several MPs on their maiden speeches, also described it as “great”.
Kinnock said: “I think it is a really bad idea to trash the legacy.
“We shouldn’t just blindly talk like zombies about how excellent everything was.
“But to trash the legacy is a completely unnecessary thing to do.
“The more we tweet and retweet and make speeches which are divisive in that way... the more it’s going to be very, very difficult for whoever wins this leadership contest to move forward.
“What we don’t want to have is a leadership contest which ends up wounding the person who wins.”