‘If you’re just going to make a statement I can go and get a cup of tea’: James Cleverly in on-air bust up with BBC’s Amol Rajan in bad-tempered interview… as Home Secretary says he ‘doesn’t remember’ privately branding Rwanda policy ‘batsh**’
James Cleverly accused a BBC star of ‘making statements’ rather than asking questions during a bad-tempered interview on the Rwanda chaos today.
The new Home Secretary threatened to ‘go and get a cup of tea’ as he engaged in a tetchy clash with Amol Rajan on the flagship Radio 4 Today programme.
He also dodged as he was grilled on Labour’s claim that he privately described the Rwanda policy as ‘batsh**’.
Mr Cleverly said that Rajan had ‘stepped straight into the trap’ laid by shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper.
But he did not completely deny using the phrase, saying: ‘I don’t remember a conversation like that.’
Mr Cleverly could not contain his frustration as the presenter read out passages from yesterday’s Supreme Court judgment that the deportations policy was illegal.
And he took umbrage as Rajan raised former judge Lord Sumption’s criticism of the idea that Parliament could legislating to declare Rwanda safe as a fact.
Home Secretary James Cleverly threatened to ‘go and get a cup of tea’ as he engaged in a tetchy clash with Amol Rajan (pictured) on the flagship Radio 4 Today programme
Mr Cleverly said that Rajan had ‘stepped straight into the trap’ laid by shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper
After the host described one answer as ‘extraordinary’ and then interrupted an explanation of the government’s position, Mr Cleverly said: ‘Are you asking questions or are you making statements?
‘Because if you’re just going to make a statement I can go and get a cup of tea.’
Rajan retorted: ‘You’re making statements, I’m trying to ask questions.’
Mr Cleverly said: ‘I am here. I want to answer questions but you’re making statements and then moving on without giving me an opportunity to address the statements that you make, a number of which I disagree with.
‘They are not my statements. I am reporting what people like Jonathan Sumption have to say.’
In his round of interviews this morning, Mr Cleverly said the government is ‘absolutely determined’ to get a removal flight to Rwanda off before the next election.
The Cabinet minister said he does not ‘think’ the UK will need to pull out of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) as they come under pressure from the Tory right.
He defended plans for emergency legislation to get Parliament to deem Rwanda a ‘safe’ country despite the Supreme Court’s concerns over risks to asylum seekers.
But Mr Cleverly was unable to deny that he privately described the policy of removing migrants who arrive by unauthorised means to east Africa as ‘batshit’.
The Government is working to broker a new legally binding treaty on top of the £140 million deal already struck with Kigali after five top justices ruled against the policy on Wednesday.
Rishi Sunak talked tough after the Supreme Court setback yesterday, with the Tories releasing images repeating his vow to ‘stop the boats’
A file image of a group of Channel migrants arriving on the south coast of England
Mr Cleverly insisted that MPs could ratify the treaty once it is agreed and pass new laws within days.
‘The whole process won’t necessarily be done and dusted just in a few days, but the actual parliamentary process can be that quick,’ he told Times Radio.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and many of his Conservative MPs are concerned that a failure to ‘stop the boats’ will hit them badly at the next general election, expected within a year.
Asked if a flight will take off before then, the Home Secretary told Times Radio: ‘We’re absolutely determined to make that happen.’
But he admitted ‘the timescales that we are looking at can vary depending on circumstances’.
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