James Cleverly Has Defended An Aide Who Said The Rwanda Policy 'Is Crap'

The home secretary also failed to deny again that he once described it as "batshit".
James Cleverly is shown what his former aide said.
James Cleverly is shown what his former aide said.

James Cleverly has defended an aide to described the government’s flagship plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda as “crap”.

The home secretary insisted James Sutherland used the incendiary term “for effect”.

Cleverly was played a secretly-recorded clip of Sutherland, who is standing as a Tory election candidate in Bracknell, on the BBC’s ‘Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg’ this morning.

Speaking at a Young Conservatives event in April, he said: “Nobody’s got their cameras on, have they? Phones on? The policy’s crap, OK? It’s crap.

“But it’s not about the policy, it’s about the effect of the policy. It’s the second or third order effects.

“In Australia, for example, a similar policy had a devastating effect. There is no doubt at all that when those first flights take off, it will send such a shockwave across the Channel that the gangs will stop.”

Kuenssberg told Cleverly: “So the policy is crap, according to one of your own team.”

He replied: “It’s important that you played the whole answer. I know James has worked incredibly hard on the policy, and whilst the opening words were clearly designed to shock and grab the attention of the audience, the point he made was absolutely right in the latter part of the quote.

“The deterrent effect on the people smuggling gangs and the people they’re trying to make money from is what we are seeking to achieve. And he’s absolutely right that in other places where that deterrent has been put in place, it’s been having an effect.”

But Kuenssberg hit back: “One of your own team told a friendly private audience, when he didn’t realise he was being recorded, that he thought the policy was crap.”

As Cleverly again said he had done so to “grab the attention of the audience”, the presenter asked him: “Why would he do that with a friendly, private audience of Conservative supporters?”

The home secretary said: “The full quote made it absolutely clear that James said when the flights take off it will send a shockwave across the Channel. The deterrent will dissuade the people smuggling gangs and the people they are preying upon.”

Later in the interview, Cleverly was reminded that he has never denied claims that he once called the Rwanda policy “batshit”.

Given another opportunity to do so, he said: “If I have used intemperate language, it’s because my frustration was that as a government we spoke exclusively about one policy and didn’t speak about all the other things, like immigration enforcement, who [deport] dozens of people every single week who have no right to be here.”


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