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Therese Coffey hits back after mistaking Rwanda capital for another country

The former deputy prime minister hit out at Labour’s shadow home secretary over her use of the phrase ‘Kigali government’ in the Commons

Archie Mitchell
Thursday 18 January 2024 13:57 GMT
Thérèse Coffey mistakes Rwanda capital for another country while slamming minister

Therese Coffey has hit back at “keyboard snipers” after she was mocked for mistaking the Rwandan capital for another country.

The top Tory, who served as deputy prime minister under Liz Truss, insisted that Kigali is “of course” the capital city of Rwanda, saying she was not involved in a mix-up over the two.

It came after she criticised shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper for using the phrase “Kigali government” in the Commons.

Therese Coffey doubled down on her criticism of Yvette Cooper on Thursday (Jacob King/PA) (PA Archive)

In a debate over Rishi Sunak’s Rwanda deportation bill on Wednesday night, Ms Coffey said: “I was somewhat astonished by the speech of the shadow home secretary, who cannot even get the name of the country right, talking about the Kigali government when we are talking about Rwanda – a respected country that has recently been president of the Commonwealth.”

In a now-viral clip of the intervention, Ms Cooper and shadow immigration minister Stephen Kinnock can be seen laughing at the apparent mix-up. Mr Kinnock said it was his “personal highlight of the last two days”.

But, hitting back on Thursday, Ms Coffey accused “keyboard snipers” of “moaning that I criticised the opposition for referring to the Kigali government, not the Rwandan government”.

“I would not call the French government, the Paris government nor the Scottish government, the Edinburgh government... why disrespect Rwanda?” she added.

She went on: “Of course, Kigali is the capital city of Rwanda.”

It came as Mr Sunak faced down rebels within his own party to win a crunch Commons vote on his plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda.

Rishi Sunak used a press conference to plead with Lords not to vote down his Rwanda bill (PA)

MPs passed the PM’s controversial deportation bill by 320 votes to 276, after a threatened Tory rebellion failed to materialise.

In the end, just 11 Tory MPs voted against, including ex-home secretary Suella Braverman and former immigration minister Robert Jenrick.

The bill now faces a fresh challenge passing through the House of Lords, and Mr Sunak on Thursday urged peers to “do the right thing” and back his Rwanda legislation.

But a leading lawyer who sits in the Lords has already warned that the bill is “a step toward totalitarianism”.

Lord Carlile, the former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, said ministers were seeking to elevate themselves “to an unacceptable level above the law”.

The crossbench peer, a leading critic of the Rwanda deportation plan in the House of Lords, also warned the “integrity of our legal system is under attack because of internal political quarrelling in the Conservative Party”.

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