Home Secretary’s aide calls Rwanda scheme ‘crap’

James Sunderland is the former aide to James Cleverly and is running for re-election as MP for Bracknell
James Sunderland is the aide to James Cleverly and is running for re-election as MP for Bracknell - David Woolfall

An aide to the Home Secretary who is standing as a Conservative candidate once branded the Government’s Rwanda policy “crap”, according to reports.

James Sunderland, who is standing in the Bracknell ward he won in 2019, was recorded telling a private event: “The policy is crap, OK? It’s crap.”

According to the BBC, a video from a Young Conservatives event in April shows Mr Sunderland then defended the plan, saying it would deter migrants from attempting to cross the Channel.

Saying the “effect of the policy” was what mattered, he added: “There is no doubt at all… when those first flights take off that it will send such a shockwave across the Channel that the gangs will stop.”

The BBC said he also criticised colleagues for “courting controversy”, naming then MPs and current Conservative candidates Jonathan Gullis and Brendan Clarke Smith as those who “polarise opinion”, alongside Lee Anderson, the former Tory MP who switched to Reform in March.

Mr Sunderland, who worked as a parliamentary private secretary to James Cleverly, the Home Secretary, and Suella Braverman, told the BBC he was “disappointed” at being recorded at a private event.

He said: “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.”

In response to the criticism of colleagues, he said he was answering a question about resignations from party posts by saying “unnecessary rhetoric and division in public life” was unnecessary.

James Cleverly addressed James Sunderland's comments on the BBC with Laura Kuenssberg
James Cleverly addressed James Sunderland's comments on the BBC with Laura Kuenssberg - Jess Overs/BBC/PA

Mr Cleverly addressed Mr Sunderland’s comments on Sunday morning on both the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg and on Sky News’s Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips were he claimed his aide was making a “counter-intuitive statement” for dramatic effect.

The Home Secretary told Phillips he was surprised by the story about the leaked recording because Mr Sunderland was “very supportive” of the policy.

“I’ve had a conversation with him and I’ve also heard the recording. And it’s clear what he’s doing is he’s putting forward a very counter-intuitive statement to grab the attention of the audience,” Mr Cleverly said.

“If you actually listen to what he then went on to say, he was saying that the impact, the effect, is what matters.”

He added: “He did it clearly for dramatic effect to grab the attention of the audience.

“But he is – and it’s clear in the recording – completely supportive of the deterrent effect that the Rwanda policy has.”

Rishi Sunak passed legislation earlier in 2024 to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda for their claims to be processed.

If successful, migrants could be granted refugee status in the central African country and be able to stay there.

So far, just two asylum seekers have been sent to Rwanda on a voluntary basis and it had cost the Government £240 million by the end of 2023.