POLITICS

Tony Blair Admits He May Damage The Pro-EU Referendum Campaign

11/03/2016 08:49 GMT | Updated 11/03/2016 09:59 GMT
Richard Drew/AP
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is interviewed by Maria Bartiromo during her "Mornings with Maria" program on the Fox Business Network, in New York on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Tony Blair has admitted it may not be entirely helpful for the pro-European Union campaign if he were to speak out more often.

"I don’t know whether its the right time for me on the campaign trail. That carries with it negatives as well as positives," he said on Friday.

The former prime minister told BBC Radio 4's Today programme he believed the British people were "sensible" and would vote to remain in the EU at the June 23 referendum. "Our destiny is to lead in Europe and we can and we should," he said.

However in what will be seen as a subtle warning to Jeremy Corbyn, he said it was "time for people to argue this case for Europe with some passion".

The current Labour leader has been criticised by some within his party for not showing enough enthusiasm for the pro-EU campaign.

Blair also rejected the suggestion that the pro-EU side of the debate was too elitist. "At some point the political class as a whole has got to get up and stand up for itself and the centre ground in-particularly has got to get some more muscularity in its position," he said.

"When people go on about how the elites want Europe but he people don't. There plenty of elites on the anti European side. The powerful people in the newspapers who are driving this and others who are major politicians who fighting this case they are no less elitist than politicians on the others side. The question is what is right for the people."

On Monday, veteran Labour MP Barry Sheerman seized on Corbyn’s perceived lack of enthusiasm for the EU In campaign. "Without the Labour machinery to get the vote out, we will lose!” he shouted at the Labour leader during a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party. "Jeremy I beg you, get out there and show some passion to win the referendum."

And Lib Dem leader Tim Farron told The Huffington Post Corbyn "clearly doesn’t care" about winning the referendum campaign and was behaving in an "utterly small-minded" manner.