Labour leader Ed Miliband must stay firm and take Ukip on by forcefully arguing the case for immigration and staying in the European Union, according to the former Labour prime minister Tony Blair.

Ukip has make political ground in the UK's local and European elections by fighting on an anti-Westminster politics platform built on foundations stones of anti-immigration and anti-EU sentiment among the British voting public.

As a result of Ukip's electoral success, the main two party leaders – Miliband, Conservative David Cameron – are under pressure to woo back voters by shifting their policies towards those of Nigel Farage's party.

But Blair said Miliband should resist those saying he should take the party rightwards and instead take the fight to Ukip, which behind the façade he claims is "pretty nasty and pretty unpleasant".

"It's not as if yielding to that pressure from Ukip has actually done the Conservative party any good at the present time," Blair, who won three general elections as Labour leader, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"And for the Labour party, if it tries to follow Ukip, either on its anti-European platform or even worse frankly on its anti-immigrant platform, all that will happen is it'll confuse its own supporters and it won't actually draw any greater support.

"The way to deal with Ukip is to stand up and take them on. What they're putting before people is a set of solutions that anybody who analyses where a country like Britain has to be in the 21<sup>st century knows the solutions are regressive, reactionary and would make all the problems of the country worse not better."

Cameron has already tried to stem the flow of Tory voters heading to Ukip by pledging to have an in-out referendum on the UK's membership of the EU in 2017 - provided his party is elected in 2015.

And he is working to bring down net migration to the UK to 100,000 annually, but has to restrict non-EU immigration to do this because under the terms of membership of the single market there must be free movement of labour within it.

This is one of the biggest bugbears of Ukip and its supporters because they perceive mass immigration from the EU to be detrimental to the UK, both economically and culturally.

But proponents say most academic studies conclude that immigrants put more into the UK than they take out. And many firms would face labour and skills shortages if they could not rely on EU citizens coming to the UK to fill roles.

Official figures from the Home Office show that net migration to the UK was 217,000 in 2013, showing Cameron is failing in his promise to get immigration down.

Lib Dems

The Lib Dems have tried to claim that their recent electoral failures, after returning just one MEP and losing more than 300 councillors, are because they have made taken an unpopular pro-EU stance.

While praising Clegg for having shown leadership over recent years, Blair dismissed the argument that the Lib Dem election results were down to Europe.

"The problem the Lib Dems have is nothing to do with Europe, the problem is very simple," he said.

"They fought the 2010 election on a platform significantly to the left of Labour and then ended up in a Conservative government with a platform significantly to the right of Labour.

"Now, if you're someone who voted Lib Dem in 2010 because you liked their total opposition to tuition fees, you're going to be somewhat disappointed, let's say, when the people you vote for end up in a government who triples them. That's the problem the Lib Dems have and there's not really a cure for that."

Blair won general elections in 1997, 2001 and 2005. He quit as prime minister in 2007 after growing dissent against his leadership in his party.