George Osborne’s hopes of succeeding David Cameron received a surprise boost yesterday when a Labour elder statesman backed him to become Prime Minister.
Frank Field said the Chancellor could emulate Margaret Thatcher, who made it to No 10 despite being unpopular at the start of her political career.
And in an equally remarkable tribute, former Minister Field compared Osborne’s £9-an-hour ‘living wage’ initiative in the Budget to Labour Prime Minister Clement Attlee’s creation of the modern welfare state.
Field’s praise for Osborne, currently on holiday in Italy, follows polls showing the Chancellor’s ratings as a potential Prime Minister have soared in recent months.
Buoyed by the economic recovery, he is catching up with Tory leadership rivals Boris Johnson and Theresa May. Field said the ‘living wage’ proposal could help to transform Osborne’s image.
‘When Margaret Thatcher first came to people’s attention as Education Secretary, she was very unpopular,’ said Field, the only Labour politician who was a close confidant of Lady Thatcher. ‘But she changed and went on to become one of the great Prime Ministers. I think Osborne may do the same.’
As Education Secretary in Edward Heath’s Conservative Government in the early 1970s, Lady Thatcher was nicknamed ‘Thatcher the Milk Snatcher’ after she scrapped free milk in primary schools.