Top James Cleverly aide describes Rwanda deportation plan as ‘crap’

A top aide to James Cleverly has described Rishi Sunak’s Rwanda deportation plan as “crap”, a leaked recording has revealed.

James Sunderland, Tory candidate for Bracknell and the home secretary’s parliamentary private secretary, said he has been immersed in the policy for two years, repeatedly calling it “crap”.

Addressing a private meeting in April, Mr Sunderland said: “I have been part of this for the last two years and am probably going to say too much.

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“What I would say to you is that… nobody has got their cameras or phones on, have they?

“The policy is crap, OK, it’s crap.”

James Sunderland said the Rwanda policy is ‘crap’ (PA)
James Sunderland said the Rwanda policy is ‘crap’ (PA)

He went on to say although the policy was crap, it worked as a deterrent.

It is an embarrassing admission by a member of the home secretary’s top team in parliament, and comes months after Mr Cleverly allegedly described the deportation scheme as “bats***”.

Mr Cleverly repeatedly refused to deny using the expletive to describe Mr Sunak’s plan to send asylum seekers to the east African nation.

On Sunday morning, he denied for the first time having said it was “bats***”. He told Sky News: “This is what Yvette Cooper has alleged that I said … she has never given any indication of where I said it or who I said it to.”

The government has so far ploughed almost £300m into the Rwanda plan without deporting a single migrant to the country.

Asked about Mr Sunderland’s comments on the scheme, Mr Cleverly said the candidate only said it “for dramatic effect… to grab the attention of the room”.

James Cleverly said his colleague was only trying to ‘grab the attention of the room’ (BBC)
James Cleverly said his colleague was only trying to ‘grab the attention of the room’ (BBC)

Mr Cleverly told Sky News: “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 detail.”

And he repeatedly pointed to comments later made by Mr Sunderland. After the clip, shared by the Labour Party, the recording of Mr Sunderland goes on to say: “But it’s not about the policy. It’s about the effect of the policy. It’s the second- or third-order effects.

“In Australia, for example, a similar policy had a devastating effect. There is no doubt at all that when those first flights take off, that it will send such a shockwave across the Channel that the gangs will stop.”

The Liberal Democrats said the Rwanda plan is “an immoral, costly gimmick and everyone, including top Conservatives, knows it”.

Home affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said: “Rishi Sunak has poured hundreds of millions into his failing vanity project – it’s a disastrous waste of money.”

Labour has vowed to scrap the Rwanda plan immediately if it wins the general election on 4 July, with not a single deportation flight taking place.

Mr Cleverly said other European countries were increasingly supportive of processing migrants in third countries. “And the only people seemingly that are heading in the other direction is Labour,” he said.