16 November 2023

Cleverly clashes with radio presenter over Rwanda policy during interview

16 November 2023

Home Secretary James Cleverly clashed with Today presenter Amol Rajan in tetchy exchanges about the Rwanda asylum policy.

The Cabinet minister protested at Rajan’s handling of the radio interview, telling him “if you’re just going to make a statement, I can go and get a cup of tea”.

He also accused Rajan of trying to “skip past” one of the Government’s achievements in cutting the number of Albanians seeking to enter the UK.

Rajan told him “we have reported that fact, which is why I didn’t skip across it, I’m the one who raised it”.

Mr Cleverly’s criticism of Rajan came after the presenter said it was “hard to overstate your position is from the Supreme Court of this country” after the ruling that the Rwanda scheme was unlawful.

The court’s judgment said the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR “reported that the Rwandan officials who participated in training which it had organised had very limited or no understanding of how to assess refugee status”.

Rajan told Mr Cleverly: “You must have done a huge amount of work to get from that to a position where you’re confident …”

Mr Cleverly said: “That’s exactly what happened.”

As the pair talked across each other, the Home Secretary 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.”

He added: “I’m here, I want to answer your questions, but you are 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.”

The Home Secretary also accused Rajan of falling into a trap set by Labour after shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said Mr Cleverly privately described the Rwanda policy as “batshit”.

Rajan said: “It was suggested in the House of Commons yesterday – and we don’t use this phrase lightly, so apologies to sensitive ears –  that you described this policy as batshit.”

Mr Cleverly chuckled and said: “You’ve stepped straight into the trap, if you don’t mind me saying, because the Labour Party would love us to discuss this particular issue rather than the gaping vacuum in the Labour Party’s immigration policy.”

Rajan told him: “You’ve fallen straight into the trap of not answering the question, having just given a sermon about how you want to answer the question.”

He pushed Mr Cleverly on whether he did use the phrase, but the Home Secretary said: “I don’t remember a conversation like that.”

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