Tony Blair: Labour must not try and 'out-Ukip' Nigel Farage

Former leader wants party to aim for the centre ground

Leaving the European Union would be viewed as an "extraordinary act of self-destruction", Tony Blair has said, as he urged Labour not to attempt to "out-Ukip" Nigel Farage's party.

The former Prime Minister said there was a "high degree of alarm" around the world about the prospect of Britain quitting the EU and criticised David Cameron's plan to renegotiate its terms of membership before an in/out referendum in 2017.

Mr Blair told the Wall Street Journal that the key to winning a majority was having a "strong political lead" in the centre ground, combining "the politics of aspiration with the politics of compassion". The Conservatives seized on that as a coded criticism of Ed Miliband, but Mr Blair insisted he was taking a “self-denying ordinance” on Labour during the interview.

He argued that the way to deal with Ukip was to "analyse their policies, show how destructive they would be" and set out positive alternatives "rather than joining in selling people a false and illusory elixir of hope, which is around if you stop more Polish people coming to Britain you're going to provide more jobs in the poorest communities in the UK".

Mr Blair added: "There’s always a difference between the politics of anger and the politics of the answer. We're best to be in the position of giving people the answer. You can understand the anger and you can sympathise with it even, but you will never out-Ukip Ukip.”