She adds: “The Prime Minister [has been] saying to me, ‘what kind of timelines are you working to?’ And rightly so.”
Ms Patel’s fears about the likely criticism of the policy when it was announced were, of course, well-founded. Labour described the Home Secretary’s statement to Parliament on the plans last week as a “desperate, shameful attempt to distract” from the fixed penalty notice issued to Mr Johnson for a breach of Covid rules in June 2020.
“This policy is unworkable, unethical, at extortionate cost, and it will make people trafficking and smuggling worse,” claimed Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary. A Labour backbencher warned of the dangers of subjecting migrants to “an authoritarian regime with one person in power for 30 years”, and Sir David Normington, a former Home Office permanent secretary, described the plan as “inhumane” and “morally reprehensible”.
Ms Patel says: “When you hear the critics start to stereotype, start to generalise, first of all, that’s all very offensive. It’s deeply offensive – and it’s based on ignorance and prejudice, some of this, in my view.
“I could call them lazy and sloppy characterisations, but actually they’re not. I think they’re based on ignorance, stereotype and prejudice. I heard plenty of that not long after the announcement was made.
“I was in Parliament on Tuesday, and there are undercurrents if I may say so, of just sheer xenophobia, which I think is absolutely appalling … For others, who speak in disparaging, belittling and prejudicial, ignorant ways about a country that is our partner, quite frankly [it] is offensive, but I think also based on ignorance as well.”
Ms Patel appears to believe that the BBC is guilty of some of these charges, along with several MPs and activists.
Last week, the Prime Minister denied that he said the BBC was “harder on the asylum policy than it is Putin”, having been challenged by Sir Keir Starmer over alleged remarks to Tory MPs. Sir Keir later withdrew his claim.
But, asked if she believed the plan had been given a fair hearing by the BBC, Ms Patel sits back and says, “Well!”, with the air of a headmistress invited to opine on one of her naughtiest pupils.
“I was questioned by them last week [in Rwanda]. They had a travelling delegation with us. And I was quite taken aback just by the tone of references to Rwanda.
“I’ve already referenced the type of undercurrent, without actually understanding the details, and not even recognising the resettlement work of Rwanda first and foremost, the track record, and how recent that has been, and how the EU has funded that as well, just even some of the details.
“From my perspective, it’s a shame. However, there are always going to be critics, and we live in a free country, in a democracy, not everybody’s going to like the approach of a Conservative government or a Conservative Home Secretary.”
Ms Patel also hints at the clashes with civil servants that have punctuated her time as Home Secretary, suggesting that her questions about radical solutions, including toughening up the criminal sanctions for those involved in people-trafficking, received a frosty reception.
“That’s when all the flags go up in government,” she says, giving a flavour of the horrified reactions from officials. “ ‘Oh, my God!’ ” she says, in her best impression of a modern day Sir Humphrey, describing “sharp intakes of breath”, before adding, in mock horror: “ ‘Changing laws?’ ”
Last week, in leaked comments from an internal online noticeboard, one Home Office member of staff compared the Conservatives to the Nazi regime while another described the Rwanda plan as “totally unethical” and asked if they could “refuse this type of work in contravention of my own ethics?”