Rishi Sunak apologises for skipping a D-Day ceremony to return to the election campaign trail

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak apologised on Friday for leaving D-Day commemorations in France early to return to the election campaign trail a decision slammed as disgraceful by his political rivals.Sunak, who is fighting to keep his job in Britains July 4 election, said that, on reflection the decision was a mistake.Sunak was not alongside leaders including US President Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy for the major memorial event at Omaha Beach in Normandy on Thursday.


PTI | London | Updated: 07-06-2024 18:26 IST | Created: 07-06-2024 18:26 IST
Rishi Sunak apologises for skipping a D-Day ceremony to return to the election campaign trail
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British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak apologised on Friday for leaving D-Day commemorations in France early to return to the election campaign trail — a decision slammed as disgraceful by his political rivals.

Sunak, who is fighting to keep his job in Britain's July 4 election, said that, "on reflection" the decision was a mistake.

Sunak was not alongside leaders including US President Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy for the major memorial event at Omaha Beach in Normandy on Thursday. Former Prime Minister David Cameron, who is now foreign minister, represented the UK.

Labour Party leader Keir Starmer, the current favorite to win the election, attended and was pictured meeting Zelenskyy and other leaders.

Sunak had earlier attended a ceremony at the British memorial in Normandy alongside King Charles III and surviving World War II veterans. He also attended a commemoration in Portsmouth, England, the day before.

Sunak wrote on X, formerly Twitter, that the 80th anniversary of the Allied invasion that helped free Europe from the Nazis "should be about those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. The last thing I want is for the commemorations to be overshadowed by politics".

He added: "On reflection, it was a mistake not to stay in France longer — and I apologise,'' he wrote.

The prime minister recorded an interview with broadcaster ITV on Thursday after returning from France, though he said that was not the reason he cut short his trip.

Sunak insisted he "stuck to the itinerary" that had been laid out for him for D-Day weeks before he called the election.

"On reflection it was a mistake not to stay longer and I've apologised for that, but I also don't think it's right to be political in the midst of D-Day commemorations,'' he said. ''The focus should rightly be on the veterans and their service and sacrifice for our country." A clip released from the interview by ITV showed Sunak denying opposition allegations that he lied by making inaccurate statements about the opposition Labour Party's tax plans.

Starmer said "Rishi Sunak will have to answer for his choice" to skip the D-Day event.

''For me there was only one choice. ... There was nowhere else I was going to be,'' Starmer told broadcasters.

Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey said it was "a total dereliction of duty" for Sunak to skip the ceremony.

Nigel Farage, leader of the populist Reform UK party, said "patriotic people who love their country" should not vote for Sunak. Farage is seeking to siphon off Conservative voters with his populist, anti-immigration positions. He is sure to raise the D-Day episode in a seven-party televised debate later Friday. All the main parties will be represented, though Sunak and Starmer are not due to take part.

Craig Oliver, who was communications director to Cameron's Conservative government, said "the problem for Rishi Sunak this morning is he's accused of not getting what it is to be a prime minister and what his duties are as a prime minister".

All 650 seats in the House of Commons are up for grabs on July 4. The leader of the party that can command a majority — either alone or in coalition — will become prime minister.

D-Day veteran Ken Hay, 98, said Sunak's decision to "bail out" had let the country down.

"I don't have a great regard for politicians,'' Hay told Sky News.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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