A TORY minister struggled to answer why not one member of the audience on the BBC’s Question Time supported the policy of deporting people to Rwanda – despite a majority of them being Conservative voters.

Host Fiona Bruce had asked the crowd watching the broadcast from Exeter if any would speak in favour of the UK Government’s flagship policy, after it had been ruled illegal in the courts earlier that same day.

“We have more people who voted Conservative than for any other single party here,” Bruce said. “Is there anyone here who supports sending people to Rwanda?”

Not one member of the audience raised their hand, leading to applause and panellist Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall saying: “Good on you.”

Health minister Helen Whately, representing the Tory government, was then asked if she’d like to respond.

“Now or after?” Whately said, only to be told she should speak now.

The Tory MP went on: “Ok, well there’s a few things to pick up there.”

But Bruce interrupted to insist she address the fact that there is “no support in the audience for sending asylum seekers to Rwanda”.

Whately said: “Well, I think on that specific point it’s because this is a very hard problem to solve.

“I think most of us feel that we want to be welcoming people and understand that people have made hard and difficult journeys.”

READ MORE: Foreign Secretary undermines 'Scotland can't join Nato without nukes' claim

The MP said she and other Tory colleagues had been to the “jungle” migrant camp in Calais and seen first-hand the people who tried to make the dangerous crossing to the UK.

Whately then appeared to say that although the UK Government is investing in other ideas in nations such as in France and Albania, it knows that those investments are not working.

She said: “We’re working with France, we’ve got the deal with Albania, we’re investing in the border. We’re investing in other ways to do it, but we know that that doesn’t work.

“We know that what we need to do is on the one hand deter people from coming here illegally, and then on the other hand make sure that we have safe routes.”

Polling on the policy, reported in April, suggested that a majority of Brits (46% vs 27%) supported the Rwanda policy. However, a majority (48% vs 34%) also thought it would not work. 

The issue of Rwanda and migration was discussed at length on the Question Time broadcast from Exeter – which has had a Labour MP continuously since 1997.

The National: Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Fearnley-Whittingstall (above), a celebrity chef who spoke on the panel, said he expected the majority of people were “delighted” that the Tories’ deportation policy had been ruled unlawful.

He went on: “There’s a Somali British poet called Warsan Shire who said … ‘No one puts a child in a boat, unless the water is safer than the land’.

“I think that’s both beautiful and also tragic, and it expresses perfectly the plight of those people.”

Audience members also spoke out against the policy, with one saying he worked in the NHS and it was a “myth” that the public sector was being “blocked by migrants”. “It’s the migrants that run the NHS and have done since it started,” he said.

Another audience member said that the rhetoric from the Tory government was reminiscent of Germany in the 1930s, echoing Gary Lineker in the controversial tweet that led to a monumental row with the BBC.

The audience member went on: “As a child I couldn't understand how the Nazis came to power. And now I understand it. We’re starting to ‘other’ other people.”

She raised the issue of mortgage rates, saying people like her daughter would be paying £400 a month more on her property due to the impact of the disastrous Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng mini-budget.

“They are deflecting all of that by talking about ‘small boats’,” she said.