Rishi Sunak has responded after a huge backlash after taking a bet to the Rwanda deportation scheme.

The Prime Minister appeared to shake hands on a £1000 wager with TV presenter Piers Morgan about flights carrying asylum seekers to Rwanda taking off before the general election.

Now, Sunak has claimed he was "taken by surprise" over the bet. 

Sunak told BBC Radio 5 Live: “I’m not a betting person and I was taken totally by surprise in the middle of that interview.”

 Sunak has since been accused of being “out of touch” and of treating politics as “just a game”, and the SNP have reported the bet to Laurie Magnus, the independent adviser on ministers' interests, and Simon Case, the head of the civil service, calling it a "clear" breach of the rules. 

Asked if it was a mistake, Sunak said: “No, well the point I was trying to get across – as I was taken totally by surprise – the point I was trying to get across was actually about the Rwanda policy and about tackling illegal migration because it’s something I care deeply about.

“Obviously people have strong views on this and I just was underlining my absolute commitment to this policy and my desire to get it through Parliament, up and running, because I believe you need to have a deterrent.”

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Despite the ructions caused by the policy – which has so far cost the UK Government £240 million – no asylum seekers have been sent to Rwanda.

It is a key plank of Sunak’s plan to “stop the boats” but a number of senior Tories have resigned from the Government, complaining the legislation is not tough enough.

Asked if he understood the financial pressures facing ordinary households, given he had made a £1000 bet on a whim, Sunak said: “When it comes to cost of living, when I first got this job I set out five priorities – the first of them was to halve inflation because I absolutely understood that the cost of living was the most pressing problem most families faced.”