Tony Blair hits out over Jeremy Corbyn's 'lukewarm' EU campaigning

Posted On: 
24th June 2016

Tony Blair has attacked Jeremy Corbyn for his “lukewarm” EU campaign after many traditional Labour strongholds voted for Brexit yesterday. 

Tony Blair said Labour had failed to convince its supporters that the EU referendum was not a protest vote
Credit: 
PA Images

Labour heartlands like Sunderland and Sheffield broke in favour of leaving the EU – something Mr Corbyn attributed in part to the regions being “marginalised by successive governments”.

Mr Corbyn’s efforts in the campaign have been frequently questioned by those who question his commitment to EU cause.

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Speaking to Sky News today, Mr Blair said the current Labour leadership had failed to convince the party’s supporters to vote in.

“Let me be frank here, I think the leadership of the Labour party was pretty lukewarm in its support for Remain,” the former prime minister said.

“I don’t think we really organised and mobilised our supporters to understand this was not a protest vote against the Government, or indeed against the establishment. It was a decision, and it’s a decision that will have enormous consequences.

“So I think those people in Labour areas who feel – of course they feel strongly about the issues of immigration but they also feel strongly about government policy, they can see cuts to their local services, they can see pressure on their local industry and jobs. These are the challenges that countries around the world today face.

“Unfortunately the right answer is not to leave the largest commercial market and biggest political union in the world, and I don’t think we really explained that to our voters.”

He hit out at the diagnosis offered by Mr Corbyn for the Labour Leave vote.

Mr Blair said: “One of the things that I heard from Jeremy Corbyn earlier today is this notion that successive governments have let down the people in some of the Labour areas that are voting Leave. We invested massively in those areas; we introduced things like the minimum wage, we introduced and signed up to the European social chapter.

Labour MP Angela Smith has said Mr Corbyn should “consider his position” in the wake of last night’s referendum, while PoliticsHome has learned he is facing calls from within the Shadow Cabinet to stand down.

Mr Blair refused to be drawn on whether Mr Corbyn should resign instead calling for a radical rethink of the party’s direction.

“There are much, much bigger questions for the Labour party right now. We’ve really got to consider what our purpose is, where we’re going and what we’re trying to do here... I think what we will learn in the days, weeks, months ahead, I’m afraid, you can ride the anger through these populist movements but you don’t actually produce the challenge."