Britain’s Middle East Minister has said he wants to take his beloved football team to Israel – to meet the “Jewish equivalent of Margaret Thatcher”.

Tobias Ellwood said he would take Premier League survivors AFC Bournemouth to Netanya, with which the seaside resort is twinned, to meet Miriam Feirberg, the northern Israeli town’s mayor.

“There are two reasons why you should go,” he said, jokingly. “Firstly, it’s almost – or is – as wonderful as Bournemouth. Secondly, you have the most wonderful mayor in Miriam Feirberg, the equivalent of Margaret Thatcher in Israel.”

Tobias Ellwood MP, UK Middle East minister

Tobias Ellwood MP, UK Middle East minister

Ellwood was speaking on Monday alongside new Israeli ambassador Mark Regev at a Yom Ha’atzmaut event in central London, celebrating Israel’s independence.

Regev said: “We have gone from being a stateless, homeless people to becoming sovereign and independent again. Having been powerless in the face of persecution and victims of violent attacks, we, the Jewish people, now have the power to defend ourselves.”