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Prime Minister Rishi Sunak Apologizes for Premature Departure from D-Day Commemorations Amid Criticism

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Rishi Sunak has issued an apology for leaving the D-Day event prematurely

The Prime Minister delivered remarks in Normandy on Thursday morning but was absent from the principal ceremony that was attended by 24 other global leaders.

Political correspondent @alixculbertson

Friday, June 7, 2024, 2:

Rishi Sunak emphasized the importance of not turning his early departure from the D-Day events in Normandy into a political issue. He also refuted claims that he had intended to miss the commemorations altogether.

The prime minister faced significant backlash for missing a portion of the 80th D-Day anniversary event on Thursday, as he was returning to the UK from France to tape a television interview scheduled for broadcast the following week.

He was last observed delivering a speech in the late morning and was conspicuously missing from the International Ceremony at Omaha Beach at 3:30 pm, an event advertised as including the presence of 25 heads of state, veterans, and officials.

Stay updated: Responses to recent apology and the latest election news

On Friday morning, Mr. Sunak expressed his apologies via social media, admitting that failing to remain was an error.

He appealed to the public to refrain from using his recent blunder as a tool for political gain, especially as criticism from rival parties intensified during the third week of the election campaign. Meanwhile, a D-Day veteran criticized him for failing the nation.

The Prime Minister also refuted claims that he had originally intended to skip the event entirely to concentrate on his electoral campaign.

"After attending every British function alongside British veterans, I went back home prior to the gathering of international leaders later that day," he stated.

"Looking back, I acknowledge my error and I offer my apologies. However, considering the significant sacrifices involved, it's crucial to avoid turning this into a political issue. We should instead concentrate on honoring the veterans who have contributed tremendously."

When questioned about potentially foregoing the ceremonies, he responded, "That would be completely inappropriate."

"The schedule for these activities was established several weeks prior to the start of the general election campaign. Naturally, my participation in both Portsmouth and France was planned from the outset. It was both an honor and a privilege for me to take part."

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He previously posted on social media: "The 80th anniversary of D-Day serves as a significant occasion to pay tribute to the courageous individuals who risked their lives defending our values, our freedom, and our democratic way of life.

"This commemoration ought to honor the individuals who gave their lives for our nation. My greatest concern is that political agendas might detract from the remembrance ceremonies."

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I have a profound respect for veterans and feel privileged to have represented the UK at several ceremonies in Portsmouth and France recently, where I had the opportunity to engage with those courageous individuals who served in combat.

"After wrapping up the British gathering in Normandy, I made my way back to the UK. Upon reconsideration, I realize it was an oversight not to extend my stay in France – for which I am sorry."

A spokesperson from Downing Street stated: "The Prime Minister's attendance at the D-Day ceremonies, including the UK's main event in Normandy, has always been planned, and any claims to the contrary are false."

Veteran of Normandy expresses disappointment in Sunak's leadership

98-year-old D-Day veteran Ken Hay, who became a prisoner of war shortly after June 6, 1944, expressed to Sky News, "He disappoints the nation.

"This doesn't reflect our efforts to unite elements to maintain harmony."

He stated that Mr. Sunak chose to "withdraw and let them handle it, because he said, 'I aim to run in the election, I want to reclaim my seat'."

Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross described the commemoration as a "vital point in our history" and stated it was "appropriate for him to apologize."

This blunder is set to be highly detrimental for the Conservative Party.

According to one pollster, this story appears to be precisely targeted to inflict maximum damage on the Tories.

This is due to it highlighting current weaknesses within the campaign, like the criticism that Rishi Sunak is disconnected or the issue of voters leaving the Tories for the more conservative Reform party.

One has to question how the Conservative group could have possibly overlooked this.

"A former cabinet minister mentioned, 'His approach is smart, yet it lacks a political edge. The same goes for his advisors.'"

Yet, given the presence of experienced figures such as David Cameron, it's astonishing that no one flagged the political dangers of appearing to leave a major event prematurely.

According to representatives from the Conservative campaign, the schedule was established long before the election was announced, which is why Rishi Sunak was not slated to be at the Omaha Beach event in the afternoon.

Critics are likely to scrutinize the decision of a UK prime minister to skip a D-Day event attended by global figures such as Joe Biden, even outside of an election cycle.

This situation puts Rishi Sunak in a tough spot, answering challenging questions, possibly causing the campaign to go off track for days as key policy announcements get overshadowed.

This puts Penny Mordaunt in a difficult position for this evening's seven-participant debate.

The Leader of the House of Commons is from Portsmouth, a location known for its significant military base, and personally serves as a Royal Naval reservist.

Following a period of relative ease for Sunak, he has encountered his most significant challenge in the campaign to date.

Veterans Affairs Minister Johnny Mercer expressed that the Prime Minister's early departure was a significant error. Following a conversation with Mr. Sunak this morning, he told The Sun, "He acknowledges that it was a mistake."

"Clearly, you can understand my reaction, being the Veterans' Minister, when this occurred," he stated.

He also criticized the response from fellow politicians, calling it "faux outrage" and "pretty nauseating," arguing that many of them have only "made my life difficult in my efforts to enhance veterans' affairs."

Mr. Mercer subsequently emphasized that this event "is not indicative of Mr. Sunak's long-standing support and actions for veterans."

"He emphasized that nobody has surpassed his efforts in that area, a fact well recognized by veterans too."

Opposition Criticizes Sunak

Other political groups seized on the "error" to criticize Mr. Sunak, accusing him of "neglecting his responsibilities."

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Following Mr. Sunak's apology, Sir Ed Davey, leader of the Liberal Democrats, expressed his thoughts on X, stating: "Holding the position of prime minister offers the unique honor of recognizing those who have served, but Rishi Sunak failed to do so at the Normandy beaches."

"This completely neglects their responsibilities and underscores the need for this Conservative government to be replaced."

Reform UK chief Nigel Farage described D-Day as "one of our greatest accomplishments" and stated that if Mr. Sunak chooses not to attend the global commemoration, it speaks volumes about his character.

He continued, "I attended because I'm concerned. I believe I'm far more in tune with this nation's feelings than he is."

Labour's shadow minister Jonathan Ashworth criticized Rishi Sunak for focusing more on his television appearances than on veterans, highlighting where Sunak's priorities lie.

"This reflects further despair, increased disorder, and even worse decision-making by the disconnected prime minister."

Speaking to Sky News, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer expressed, "Attending for the entire day was a significant commitment for me; it was the only decision I considered."

"The prime minister must be held accountable for his decisions."

Stay informed on the most recent updates from the UK and globally by tuning into Sky News.

Further details: Conservatives announce tax reduction for parents, while Labour pledges 'right to purchase' for the youth.

Labour's shadow defence secretary, John Healey, has sent a letter to Defence Secretary Grant Shapps seeking clarification on several issues. He wants to know the timeline of the decision for Prime Minister Sunak to participate only partially in the ceremony, whether the television interview was conducted during the D-Day commemorations, and if it is accurate that the French government was initially told that the Prime Minister would not be attending.

SNP minister Neil Gray criticized it as a "neglect of responsibility" and mentioned to Sky News that the Prime Minister had "poorly honored" the legacy of his grandfather who was a participant in D-Day.

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"Mr. Gray expressed that he finds it completely reprehensible and vile,"

"I believe the veteran community will be significantly upset by this."

"It's shocking that the prime minister prioritized a television interview over finishing the memorial services, showing a serious lapse in judgment."

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