By Camilla Turner (TELEGRAPH)
Boris Johnson on Tuesday night accused the BBC and the Archbishop of Canterbury of being more critical of the Rwanda migrants plan than Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
Mr Johnson told Conservative MPs that the BBC and the Archbishop were “less vociferous” in their criticism of the Russian president than they were of plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda.
Addressing Tory backbenchers at a private meeting, he said the Rwanda deal was a good policy and claimed it had been “misconstrued” by the BBC and senior members of the clergy.
The Archbishop led the Church of England’s attack on the policy, saying it raised “serious ethical questions” and “cannot stand the judgment of God” or “carry the weight of our national responsibility as a country formed by Christian values”.
In the sermon, the archbishop said “sub-contracting out our responsibilities, even to a country that seeks to do well, like Rwanda, is the opposite of the nature of God who himself took responsibility for our failures”.
He also used his sermon to call for a “Russian ceasefire, withdrawal and a commitment to talks”, adding that “this is a time for resetting the ways of peace…let the darkness of war be banished”.
He did not mention Putin by name, but said dictators who “rule by fear, violence and cruelty” will lose.
On the same morning, the Archbishop of York joined the Archbishop of Canterbury in criticising the plan to send migrants to Rwanda.
In his Easter Sunday sermon at York Minster, Stephen Cottrell said he had found it “so depressing and distressing this week to find that asylum seekers fleeing war, famine and oppression from deeply, deeply troubled parts of the world will not be treated with the dignity and compassion that is the right of every human being, and instead of being dealt with quickly and efficiently here on our soil will be shipped to Rwanda”.
Former prime minister Theresa May on Tuesday said she does not support the policy of sending migrants who arrive by unauthorised means 4,000 miles to East Africa.
And she questioned the “legality, practicality and efficacy” of the widely-criticised plans.
But senior Tory Dame Andrea Leadsom criticised as “absolutely abhorrent and inexplicable” criticism from people like Mr Welby.
Meanwhile, addressing the Prime Minister after his speech, the Tory MP for Colne Valley, Jason McCartney, was heard accusing Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer of a “whipping up of hysteria” and of using language that showed a “visceral hatred” of the Prime Minister.
Mr Johnson replied that there had been a “coarsening of the debate that does our politics no favours”.