Rishi Sunak accused of ‘new low’ after betting £1,000 on Rwanda deportation flights

Rishi Sunak was accused of taking politics to a “new low” after betting £1,000 on being able to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda before the next election.

The “crude” and “depraved” came as the PM used an interview with Piers Morgan to double down on his support for the asylum policy, insisting he will get flights off the ground this year.

During the chat, he accepted bet offered by the TalkTV broadcaster, that asylum seekers will be sent on one-way flights to Kigali before voters hit the polls, with an election expected this autumn.

Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the SNP all pounced on his hand-shake bet with the TV host – with the Scottish national party reporting Mr Sunak over a potential breach of the ministerial code.

Green MP Caroline Lucas told The Independent Mr Sunak had plunged to a new low. She said: “Words fail me that the prime minister and Piers Morgan can be so callous about the awful Rwanda policy that they place a bet on it.”

“These are people’s lives they’re gambling over. Yet Sunak thinks nothing of casually agreeing to a £1k bet. He’s supposed to be the head of government, not a punter in a casino.” She added: “This is a new low in our politics.”

Rishi Sunak and Piers Morgan bet £1,000 on Rwanda flights leaving before next election. (Piers Morgan Uncensored/TalkTV)
Rishi Sunak and Piers Morgan bet £1,000 on Rwanda flights leaving before next election. (Piers Morgan Uncensored/TalkTV)

Labour said the bet was “deeply distasteful” and showed Mr Sunak is “totally out of touch with working people”. Shadow immigration minister Stephen Kinnock added that it was “the least prime ministerial thing I've seen in nine years in parliament”.

Mr Kinnock said: “A prime minister splashing his cash around like it's monopoly money - betting on a policy that he has lost control over. Cost of Rwanda policy may now end up at £400,001,000.”

And Labour frontbencher Jonathan Ashworth said: “Not a lot of people facing rising mortgages, bills and food prices are casually dropping £1,000 bets. It just shows that Rishi Sunak is totally out of touch with working people.”

And the SNP’s Westminster leader Stephen Flynn said: “The lives of some of the most vulnerable people on the planet reduced to a crude bet. It’s just a game to these people.”

The SNP reported Mr Sunak to his own adviser on ministers’ interests, and the cabinet secretary, over what the party claimed was a potential breach of the ministerial code.

In a letter to Sir Laurie Magnus and Simon Case, SNP Cabinet Office spokesperson Kirsty Blackman said the bet “falls below the high standards people should expect of those in public life” and may breach ministerial code rules on avoiding conflicts with private interests.

In the interview, Mr Morgan told Mr Sunak: “I’ll bet you £1,000 to a refugee charity, you don’t get anybody on those planes before the election. Will you take that bet?”

Mr Sunak shook hands with the TV host to seal the deal and stressed he is “working incredibly hard to get the people on the planes”.

He also said Rwanda is part of an “overall plan” to bring down the number of migrants crossing the English Channel that is “working”.

The bet comes as Mr Sunak’s plan B Rwanda bill, developed after the original was ruled unlawful by the Supreme Court, is making its way through the Lords.

Even if the bill passes both houses with no amendments, question marks remain over whether flights will be able to take off for Rwanda by the election. It is likely deportations will still face legal challenges as individual migrants are prepared for removal from Britain.

Sunak was interviewed by Piers Morgan on TalkTV (TalkTV)
Sunak was interviewed by Piers Morgan on TalkTV (TalkTV)

The government has also agreed a legally-binding treaty with Kigali in December – arguing that it addressed concerns raised by the Supreme Court about the possibility of asylum seekers deported to Rwanda being transferred to a country where they could be at risk

Campaign group Reunite Families UK, who support families affected by the spousal visa threshold, reacted to the clip saying they were “literally gambling over desperate people”.

And Steve Smith of the Care4Calais campaign group said it was “disgraceful” for a PM “with extreme wealth” to reduce the Rwanda issue to a £1,000 bet.

“We expect gravitas and careful consideration in our leaders. Not amorality and lack of concern for others,” said the chief executive.

The Liberal Democrats said the £1,000 bet may represent “chump change” for Mr Sunak, but the rest of the country “cannot throw their money around so easily”.

Home affairs spokesman Alistair Carmichael said: “Instead of placing a trashy bet on the Rwanda scheme, the prime minister should put his money where his mouth is on the soaring NHS backlog.

“Treating vulnerable people as pawns in a game tells you everything you need to know about Rishi Sunak and his Tory government. If the prime minister believes in gambling then perhaps he should throw the dice and call a general election.”

The PM’s official spokesman said: “I think what the prime minister’s saying, and obviously what is clear coming through from that interview, is the prime minister’s absolute confidence that we’ll get flights off the ground.”

The official pointed to the timetable previously set out by Mr Sunak, which is “by the spring”.

The spokesman batted off questions on whether Mr Sunak is setting a good example when the government is taking a hard line on gambling. “I think he’s focused on doing what is needed to deliver on the priorities for the British people,” he said.