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

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British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak visits the children’s center Imagination Childcare during a Conservative election campaign in Swindon, Great Britain, June 7, 2024. | Photo credit: REUTERS

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak apologized on Friday for leaving France’s D-Day commemorations early to return to the election campaign trail – a decision denounced as shameful by his political rivals.

Mr Sunak, who is fighting to keep his job in Britain’s July 4 election, said the decision was “on reflection” a mistake.

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

Labor leader Keir Starmer, the current favorite to win the election, attended and met Mr Zelensky and other leaders.

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

Mr Sunak wrote on X, formerly Twitter, that the 80th anniversary of the Allied invasion that helped liberate 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.”

Also read: Sunak and Starmer clash over taxes and healthcare in debate as disruptor Farage shakes UK elections

He added: “On reflection, it was a mistake not to stay in France longer – and I apologize.”

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The Prime Minister recorded an interview with broadcaster ITV on Thursday after returning from France. An excerpt released by the broadcaster showed Mr Sunak denying opposition accusations that he had lied by making incorrect statements about the opposition Labor party’s tax plans.

Mr Starmer said that “Rishi Sunak will have to answer for his choice” to return to campaigning.

“For me there was only one choice… There was no other place for me to be,” Mr Starmer told broadcasters.

Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey said it was “a total dereliction of duty”.

Nigel Farage, leader of the populist Reform UK party, said “patriotic people who love their country” should not vote for Sunak. Mr Farage is trying to win over Conservative voters with his populist, anti-immigration views. He is certain to raise the D-Day episode in a seven-party televised debate later Friday. All major parties will be represented, although Mr Sunak and Mr Starmer will not participate.

Craig Oliver, communications director for Cameron’s Conservative government, said: “The problem for Rishi Sunak this morning is that he is accused of not getting what it means to be prime minister and what his duties as prime minister are.”

On July 4, all 650 seats in the House of Commons will be up for grabs. The leader of the party that can achieve a majority – alone or in coalition – becomes prime minister.

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