Tony Blair: Time for pro-EU campaigners to show some passion

Posted On: 
11th March 2016
Tony Blair has criticised those leading the Remain campaign for failing to show more “passion and vigour” in making the case for Britain’s continued membership of the European Union. 

The former prime minister downplayed the possibility that he could take on a leading role in the campaign, acknowledging that such a move “carries with it negatives as well as positives”.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said the Remain backers’ warnings about the implications of Brexit were “almost biblical”, the latest accusation of a so-called ‘Project Fear’ to keep Britain in the EU.

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Mr Blair seemed to agree with some of the criticisms, as he urged the pro-EU campaign to make a more emotional appeal about the benefits of the bloc.

“It’s certainly time for people to argue this case for Europe with some passion,” he told the Today programme this morning.

“The thing that makes me so most frustrated about this is Britain’s got a great opportunity to lead in Europe... we’ve got to realise how fast the world is changing, how important this relationship is, and the massive instability that’s going to come for no good purpose if we take the wrong decision.”

Another accusation frequently thrown at the Remain campaign is that it is run by elites against the interests of workers.

Mr Blair challenged pro-EU politicians to show more backbone and face down the charge.

He said: “At some point the political class as a whole has got to get up and stand up for itself. The centre ground in particular has got to get some more muscularity in its position. 

“The powerful people in the newspapers who are driving this [push to leave the EU] and other major politicians who are fighting this case are no less elitist...

“Framing this argument in the way these guys do: ‘the elites are all for Europe and the people are all against it’ – come on. You guys are just as elitist as anybody else.”

‘DEATH OF THE FIRST BORN’

Mr Duncan Smith, one of six Cabinet ministers to have come out in favour of leaving the EU, said the warnings emanating from the Remain camp were “panicky”.

He told Radio 4 : “I listen to these endless comments and speeches about these dire warnings, they’re almost biblical. You expect a plague of frogs and the death of the first born.”

He also rejected the idea that a Leave vote would result in uncertainty by highlighting consistent failures in the Government’s economic projections.

“We had the Autumn Statement in December and we were told for the next seven years things were looking great. Within one month of that forecast, we’re now being told that things are difficult and the world is changing and therefore we have to revise that. I don’t mind that process. All I say to you is if you can’t forecast more than two months, how in heaven’s name can you forecast the next four or five years?”