Rishi Sunak says the UK has done “an incredibly good job” of integrating people from different backgrounds – days after the home secretary spoke of the “misguided dogma of multiculturalism”.
The prime minister’s words stood in sharp contrast to what Suella Braverman said earlier in the week.
Both are the children of immigrants, and Mr Sunak is of Indian heritage.
Speaking in the United States earlier this week, Ms Braverman said multiculturalism “failed because it allowed people to come to our society and live parallel lives in it”.
She suggested it has allowed them to “pursue lives aimed at undermining the stability and threatening the security of our society”.
Asked about the comments from Ms Braverman – who some speculate was trying to boost her leadership credentials if Mr Sunak was defeated at the next general election – the prime minister told the BBC: “I think that this is something that is incredible about this country, is that it is a fantastic multicultural democracy.
“We have done an incredible job of integrating people into society and one of the lovely things about getting the job I have, as the first person from my background to hold this job, that’s a wonderful thing, but it’s also not a big deal in our country.
“I think that speaks to the progress we’ve made over the years and how far we’ve come and something we should all be collectively incredibly proud of.”
Asked if Ms Braverman was wrong, Mr Sunak said it is “important that everyone subscribes to British values” but that he believes “our country has done an incredibly good job of integrating people from lots of different backgrounds”.
In her speech in the US, Ms Braverman called for the international agreements at the heart of the world-wide asylum system to be changed.
She said that too often “persecution” and “discrimination” are being conflated.
The home secretary has also claimed that people have pretended to be gay in order to claim asylum in the UK. The Home Office has been unable to provide evidence showing this is the case.
Ms Braverman has said it was “flippant” to suggest she was angling for the party leadership – and that she was working “hand-in-hand” with the prime minister.
A Labour spokesman said: “Weak Rishi Sunak has allowed his Home Secretary to swan off around the world delivering messages to some of our closest allies that he’s not onboard with.
“It’s official, his premiership is beyond tired, it’s redundant. This is not just embarrassing. It’s bad for Britain and they should call an election now.”