Rishi Sunak has repeatedly declined to endorse Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s claim that multiculturalism has “failed” in her hardline speech on immigration.
The Prime Minister instead praised the UK’s “fantastic multicultural democracy” on Thursday, saying the nation has done an “incredible job of integrating people”.
Ms Braverman has sought to downplay suggestions that her speech in the US was paving the way for a future bid to surpass her boss as the Tory leader.
The Cabinet minister warned of what she sees as an “existential threat” of uncontrolled migration as she called for reform of international refugee rules.
She argued the “misguided dogma of multiculturalism” had “failed because it allowed people to come to our society and live parallel lives in it”.
Ms Braverman suggested it has allowed them to “pursue lives aimed at undermining the stability and threatening the security of our society”.
But Mr Sunak, the first British PM of Indian heritage, repeatedly declined to back her comments during a round of regional broadcast interviews ahead of the Tory conference.
Asked by BBC East Midlands political editor Tony Roe if he agreed with Ms Braverman, Mr Sunak said: “I think that this is something that is incredible about this country, is that it is a fantastic multicultural democracy.
“We have done an incredible job of integrating people into society and one of the lovely things about getting the job I have, as the first person from my background to hold this job, that’s a wonderful thing, but it’s also not a big deal in our country.
“I think that speaks to the progress we’ve made over the years and how far we’ve come and something we should all be collectively incredibly proud of.”
Asked if the Home Secretary was wrong, Mr Sunak said it is “important that everyone subscribes to British values” but that he believes “our country has done an incredibly good job of integrating people from lots of different backgrounds”.
Westminster observers suggested that Ms Braverman’s speech in Washington seemed like a pitch to the Tory right, in case Mr Sunak leads the party to defeat at the next general election.
But Ms Braverman, whose parents migrated from Mauritius and Kenya, told the PA news agency that such suggestions were “slightly flippant” and insisted she was working “hand-in-hand” with Mr Sunak.
Her remarks were criticised by some Conservative MPs, including Tobias Ellwood.
He told ITV’s Peston they were “clearly designed for a particular audience and don’t do the Prime Minister any good”.
A Labour spokesman said: “Weak Rishi Sunak has allowed his Home Secretary to swan off around the world delivering messages to some of our closest allies that he’s not onboard with.
“It’s official, his premiership is beyond tired, it’s redundant. This is not just embarrassing. It’s bad for Britain and they should call an election now.”