Chris Philp’s history of gaffes as Tory MP asks if Congo is different country to Rwanda

They say God loves a trier and Chris Philp, the minister for policing, is one Tory who can never be accused of failing to put in a shift, frequently appearing in the media to dutifully defend the latest government line on the issue of the day.

While the MP for Croydon South is not afraid to get his hands dirty, evidenced by his loyal defences of Boris Johnson and Liz Truss in the darkest hours of their respective premierships, some critics have suggested he does not share the communication skills and political nous displayed by some of his front bench colleagues.

Alas, the former Home Office minister was left blushing again last night during an appearance on the BBC. There were audible gasps - and a very confused-looking shadow health secretary - when Mr Philp asked whether Rwanda and Congo were different countries, following what sounded like a relatively straight forward question from a Question Time audience member.

The gaffe was not Mr Philp’s first and unlikely to be his last, given the ambitious minister’s propensity to get out on the airwaves and put his shoulder behind the government wheel.

Chris Philp on Question Time (Question Time, BBC)
Chris Philp on Question Time (Question Time, BBC)

Casual observers of the stock exchange will know that it can turn on a sixpence. Jittery investors, rogue behaviour by the CEO of a blue chip firm or a geopolitical crisis can all send the FTSE 100 tumbling.

During Kwasi Kwarteng’s now infamous mini-Budget, Mr Philip, then chief secretary to the Treasury, undeterred by the precariousness of a fiscal statement unapproved by the Office for Budget Responsibility and keen to display his support for his new bosses, tweeted, “Great to see sterling strengthening on the back of the new UK Growth plan” while the former chancellor was still on his feet in the House of Commons chamber.

But less than half an hour after Mr Philp decided to hit publish on his smartphone screen, the pound sunk to a 37-year low against the US dollar, sliding perilously close to an all-time low later in the evening. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Mr Philp studied physics at Oxford University but it was his geography that was once again apparently found wanting in 2020 when during an interview with broadcasters he seemed to think he was representing Germany rather than the UK.

The MP, then minister for immigration, said “France and Germany” were working together in the spirit of cooperation while on a visit to France to discuss the Channel crisis with leaders in Paris.

Quickly realising his error, Mr Philp then pleaded with the crew to redo the clip. “Do you want to that last bit again because I got the Germany thing muddled?” he said.

In his current brief as policing minister, partly responsible for keeping members of the public safe on the streets, Mr Philp was ridiculed after suggesting that people should make citizens’ arrests to help tackle a surge in shoplifting.

“The wider public do have the power of citizen’s arrest and, where it’s safe to do so, I would encourage that to be used because if you do just let people walk in, take stuff and walk out without proper challenge, including potentially a physical challenge, then again it will just escalate,” he told a fringe event at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester last year. “While I want the faster and better police response, the police can’t be everywhere all the time.”

A union described the suggestion as “DIY policing” and branded it “dangerous”.