James Cleverly faces barrage from BBC presenters as new Home Secretary sworn at in frosty interviews

James Cleverly faces barrage from BBC presenters as new Home Secretary sworn at in frosty interviews

WATCH NOW: James Cleverly says nothing in Rwanda ruling dims party's commitment to scheme

Alex Davies

By Alex Davies

Published: 16/11/2023

- 11:48

Updated: 16/11/2023

- 15:51

The new Home Secretary faced grillings from Charlie Stayt and Amol Rajan on Thursday morning

Following the Supreme Court's ruling that the government's Rwanda plan for asylum seekers was "unlawful", it was left to new Home Secretary James Cleverly to face the media on Thursday morning.

Judges sat on the Supreme Court unanimously decided that Rwanda was not a safe third country for illegal migrants to be sent to while the court's president Lord Reed ruled there would be a risk of the country returning genuine asylum seekers to face “ill treatment” in the nation they'd already fled from.

The government isn't expected to take the ruling lying down, with Jacob Rees-Mogg revealing a plan to "legislate" against the verdict while Lee Anderson has suggested Rishi Sunak "ignores" the ruling.

Cleverly was the government's mouthpiece amid the saga on Thursday morning, appearing on BBC Breakfast and Radio 4's Today programme where he faced grillings from Charlie Stayt and Amol Rajan, respectively.

During the Radio 4 interview, Cleverly found himself at loggerheads with Rajan as the pair became embroiled in an on-air bust-up due to the BBC presenter's manner.

"It's hard to overstate how far your position is from a Supreme Court in this country," Rajan said during their interview before he read aloud a section from the Supreme Court's ruling yesterday.

Charlie Stayt

Charlie Stayt swore during his discussion with James Cleverly


In it, the ruling said "Rwandan officials" who'd taken part in training as part of the government's scheme's plans "had very limited or no understanding of how to assess refugee status".

Cleverly attempted to respond to the statement but he and Rajan ended up talking over one another as the BBC presenter scrambled to move the conversation on.

"Are you asking questions or are you making statements?" Cleverly blasted. "Because if you're just going to make a statement I can go and get a cup of tea."

"You're making statements, I'm trying to ask questions," Rajan said but Cleverly stood firm: "I am here. I want to answer questions but you're 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."

WATCH NOW: Charlie Stayt asks if Cleverly said 'bats***'

Rajan replied: "They are not my statements. I am reporting what people like Jonathan Sumption have to say."

The pair's conversation moved on but it wasn't the first time Cleverly found himself clashing with a BBC star on Thursday morning.

During his interview with Stayt on BBC Breakfast, the presenter asked: "As you're aware, some things attract more attention maybe than they deserve.

"But yesterday in the Commons, you were accused of describing the Rwanda system as bats***.

"Is that true? Did you say those words?" Stayt added while a surprised Cleverly replied: "Well, that was a claim made of me, not something that I said, but the point is..."

"You didn't say that?" Stayt interrupted as Cleverly tried to continue. "But the point is... look, it's good for parliamentary theatre.

Amol Rajan

Amol Rajan grilled James Cleverly on Radio 4


"The point that I said is, and I repeat it, the Rwanda scheme is already having a deterrent effect.

"When we operationalise it, when we get those flights taking off, it will have an even greater deterrent effect, and it will be part of the toolkit that is seeing the applications sped up, the returns increased, the number of raids on illegal employment - people employing illegal migrants - significantly increased to 70 percent.

"This as I say, is a really important part of a range of activities cracking down on illegal migration, and it is working."

Stayt referred back to his initial question as he repeated: "I am very happy to give you the time to answer the question I just asked you, did you say that word?"
"I don't remember," Cleverly hit back. "I certainly don't remember saying anything anything like that.

"But then the point is, this is a really important part of our plan, which is already working."

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