Conservative candidate who described Rwanda policy as ‘crap’ did so to ‘shock his audience’, Home Secretary says

23 June 2024, 10:33

James Cleverly joined LBC for Sunday with Lewis Goodall
James Cleverly joined LBC for Sunday with Lewis Goodall. Picture: LBC/Getty
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

A Conservative candidate who described the Government’s Rwanda plan as “crap” did so “shock” and “grab the attention” of his audience, the Home Secretary has told LBC.

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James Sutherland, who was the MP for Bracknell until the election was called, said at an event in April: “The policy’s crap, ok? It’s crap.”

James Cleverly told LBC: “I agree with the point that he was making that when those flights take off, it will send a shockwave - I suspect that he said that in that way to grab the attention of the audience, shock them into listening.

“It was a provocative way of describing it but he was absolutely clear and unambiguous that the deterrent effect would send a shockwave across the people smuggling gangs. He was completely right to say so.

“It is not the flights themselves that stop the boats, it’s the recognition in the minds of the people smugglers and the people being smuggled that they will not get to stay in the UK.

“That is what will break the business model of the people-smuggling gangs.”

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James Cleverly, Home Secretary
James Cleverly, Home Secretary. Picture: Alamy

According to a recording obtained by the BBC, Mr Sunderland says: "I have been part of this for the last two years, and I’m immersed in it and I probably shouldn’t say too much.

"What I would say to you is that - nobody has got their cameras on, their phones - the policy is crap, OK? It’s crap."

He continues: "But it’s not about the policy. It’s about the effect of the policy. It’s the second- or third-order effects.

How could Rwanda have contributed to an election decision?, Nick Ferrari asks Sir John Curtice.

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

Mr Sunderland also criticised colleagues for "polarising opinion" over the policy.

He said: "I’m not saying stupid things. I’m not on the front page of the newspaper. I’m doing my job. I can commend hard work.

"If you go out and do what Jonathan Gullis does, or Brendan Clarke-Smith, or Lee Anderson, go out and just court controversy, you polarise opinion. I don’t want that."

Mr Sunderland told the BBC: "I am disappointed that I was recorded at a private event. I candidly answered questions. I was talking about the response to the policy. The policy itself is not the be all and end all but part of a wider response.

"I never criticise colleagues publicly but was asked about the resignations of colleagues from party posts. I honestly answered that we do not need unnecessary rhetoric and division in public life."

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