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UK's Rishi Sunak condemned after leaving D-Day ceremony early for TV interview

Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak meets a British D-Day veteran during a commemorative ceremony marking the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings.
Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak meets a British D-Day veteran during a commemorative ceremony marking the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings. Copyright Ludovic Marin/AP
Copyright Ludovic Marin/AP
By Andrew Naughtie
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The beleaguered prime minister, whose party is flailing in the polls, is trying to win back unhappy older voters on a platform of patriotism and security.

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British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has been forced to apologise after leaving the D-Day 80th anniversary commemoration early so he could sit for a pre-recorded interview.

Sunak, whose governing Conservatives are currently stuck at second place in the polls ahead of the 4 July election, has tried to frame his main opponent Keir Starmer as a threat to the UK's national security.

The PM and his party have also long accused Labour of being insufficiently proud of the country's history and status as a major international military power.

However, it was Sunak who left the ceremony early, leaving behind Starmer and King Charles III to mingle with elderly veterans and world leaders, including Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelenskyy, France's Emmanuel Macron and US President Joe Biden.

Worse yet for Sunak, it emerged last night that his campaign had determined the interview time, not news company ITN, who said they were only offered one slot to sit down with him.

It has been reported that Sunak originally did not plan to attend the event, which will almost certainly be the last major D-Day anniversary to host a significant number of veterans who took part in the momentous World War Two mission.

Downing Street has formally denied this version of events.

Once it became clear what had happened, Sunak issued an apology in a post on X.

"After the conclusion of the British event in Normandy, I returned back to the UK," he wrote. "On reflection, it was a mistake not to stay in France longer – and I apologise."

But, his apology has not defused the astonishment among the media and the political class – including many in his own party.

The largest threat currently facing Sunak and the Conservatives comes from the right-wing party Reform UK and its de facto leader, the anti-immigration and pro-Brexit activist Nigel Farage, who recently announced he is standing in a Conservative-held seat.

Reform is specifically targeting older, right-leaning voters with traditional cultural and social views, many of whom consider victory in World War Two a core part of their national identity.

When the news emerged of Sunak's early departure from the D-Day event, Farage, who remains very popular with a significant chunk of the Conservative base, wasted no time condemning the prime minister.

"I was honoured to help raise £100,000 for the Taxi Charity to send veterans back to Normandy. It was a pleasure to meet them at the various events," he wrote on X.

"Rishi Sunak could not even be bothered to attend the international event above Omaha Beach. Who really believes in our people, him or me?"

Some polls taken before Farage decided to stand already showed the Conservatives only two or three points ahead of Reform, a situation that was once unthinkable.

The Labour Party, meanwhile, maintains a lead over Sunak's party as large as 20 points.

The interview Sunak recorded will air next week. A clip has been released that features him forced to deny that he repeatedly lied about Labour's tax plans in a debate with Starmer.

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