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The Prime Minister apologized for leaving the D-Day memorial service early

Via Jennifer McKiernan, Political correspondent, BBC News

Sunak apologized for missing some of the D-Day commemorations

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has apologized after a backlash for leaving D-Day commemorations in France early.

In what was widely seen as the biggest gaffe of the general election campaign to date, Mr Sunak was accused of dereliction of duty for leaving early from an event organized to mark the 80th anniversary of the landings. Normandy.

While world leaders, including US President Joe Biden, gathered on Thursday to pay their respects, Mr Sunak left Foreign Secretary David Cameron on his behalf and returned to the UK.

Speaking to reporters about his decision to leave after attending a British event, the prime minister said: “On reflection, it was a mistake and I apologise.”

Mr Sunak said his itinerary for attending the D-Day events was set “a few weeks ago” and he had attended other events with veterans, including in Portsmouth.

He said: “After attending all the British events with British veterans, I returned home before the international leaders’ event later in the day.

“On reflection, it was a mistake and I apologize.”

Prime Minister also sorry on Xsaid he hoped the “ultimate sacrifice” of those who risked their lives would not be “overshadowed by politics”.

D-Day commemorations included a British event at Ver sur Mer which the prime minister and King Charles attended, but Mr Sunak left before the international commemorations on Omaha Beach.

Opposite, Labor Party leader Sir Keir Starmer was present at the event until finally, this side confirmed, asking Mr. Sunak to return to record an interview with ITV.

Labour’s Jonathan Ashworth said: “In choosing to prioritize his frivolous TV appearances over our veterans, Rishi Sunak has shown what is most important to him.”

Sir Keir said he was “impressed” by how hard it was for the veterans to get there but how many made the effort to get up from their wheelchairs to greet the King.

“I think it was really important for me to be there to pay my respects to them and to those who didn’t come back and really say thank you,” he said.

“Rishi Sunak will have to answer for his own actions. As for me, there would be nowhere else for me to go.”

Foreign Secretary David Cameron, who replaced Mr Sunak alongside world leaders attending the international event, defended the Prime Minister as “candid”.

On Mr Sunak’s departure after the events in England, Lord Cameron said: “He had long-term plans to return after that – and we’re in the middle of an election campaign so that’s no big deal.” surprised.

“But then, on reflection, he said he wished he had stayed for the event afterwards and I think it’s a credit to him, that he was so candid about it .”

Veterans Minister Johnny Mercer said veterans “will feel pretty raw” – and added that “personally it’s a bit heartbreaking” but he would side with the Prime Minister.

He said: “I think he did the right thing by apologizing – it was a mistake, it shouldn’t have happened.

“Obviously people will want to turn this into a political issue and criticize him. I won’t join that crowd.

“I think everyone makes mistakes, this was a mistake. He has accepted it and has apologized and I will continue to fight for him.”

He asked people to remember the government’s decisions on veterans’ issues, including heritage prosecutions in Northern Ireland, and insisted Mr Sunak and his wife were “deeply committed to this problem for many years.”

But Mrs Muriel, 90, from Carlisle, whose father was fighting in Italy on D-Day, told BBC Radio 5 Live that she was “absolutely disgusted” with Mr Sunak and that his passing had left her in tears. eye.

“He is our prime minister, he represents me,” she said. I just think it’s so wrong.

“I’ve been watching it since half past seven, I’ve been in tears at times and I just think it’s horrible.

“If he expects me to vote for him again, he can forget it.”

Jack Hemmings, 102, a World War Two pilot who traveled to Normandy to attend the memorial service, told the BBC that Mr Sunak’s early passing was “a wrong decision”.

“He chose to hold an election in the face of thousands of deaths.”

Mr. Hemmings. was a member of the Liberal Democratic Party, serving with 353 Squadron and flying the Lockheed Hudson in a maritime patrol role to protect the Bay of Bengal from a Japanese invasion.

Reuters Lord Cameron with French President Emmanuel Macron, German Prime Minister Olaf Scholz and US President Joe BidenReuters
An image that says 'more on the 2024 general election'

Tim Montgomerie, founder of Conservative Home, told BBC Newsnight that leaving the memorial for an interview was “inexcusable”.

He said: “I want to put my head in my hands… If he comes back to give political interviews after the D-Day commemorations it is inexcusable.”

Former Downing Street communications director Sir Craig Oliver accused Mr Sunak of “not understanding what it takes to be prime minister” on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, pointing out that D-Day should have been stopped regardless. accept the general election.

“This is a very important time for the country, but it is also a very important time to show that you are prime minister,” he said.

“And the problem for Rishi Sunak this morning is that he is accused of not understanding the role of a chancellor and his duties as a chancellor.”

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey called the decision a “dereliction of duty”.

“One of the greatest privileges of the prime minister’s office is to be there to honor those who have served, but Rishi Sunak abandoned them on the beaches of Normandy.

“It is a complete dereliction of duty and shows why this Conservative government must go.”

Reform Party leader Nigel Farage posted on X to say he was “honoured” to help raise money for veterans attending the event in Normandy.

“Rishi Sunak didn’t even bother to attend the international event on Omaha Beach,” he said, adding “Who really believes in our people, him or me?”

The BBC has contacted CCHQ for comment.

The issue is likely to be raised in tonight’s BBC general election debate at 7.30pm BST, with Penny Mordaunt, the former defense secretary, representing the Conservatives.

She will face Labor Party deputy leader Angela Rayner, Liberal Democrat deputy leader Daisy Cooper, SNP leader Stephen Flynn, Green Party co-leader Carla Denyer, Plaid Cymru leader Rhun ap Iorwerth and Party leader Reform Nigel Farage.


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