Rishi Sunak says sorry for leaving D-day events early to record TV interview | Rishi Sunak

Rishi Sunak has apologised for leaving D-day anniversary events early to take part in a TV interview, admitting it was “a mistake not to stay in France longer”.

The prime minister had been heavily criticised for allowing the foreign secretary, David Cameron, to take his place in the late afternoon ceremony at Omaha beach on Thursday, while he left Normandy to do a prerecorded ITV segment to be broadcast next week.

On Friday, the prime minister said on X: “I care deeply about veterans and have been honoured to represent the UK at a number of events in Portsmouth and France over the past two days and to meet those who fought so bravely.

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

Conservative activists reacted with fury at the sight of Cameron standing alongside the French, German and US leaders, Emmanuel Macron, Olaf Scholz and Joe Biden, with one saying it had left them questioning whether to “bother to continue campaigning”.

L-R: David Cameron, Emmanuel Macron, Olaf Scholz and Joe Biden at the international commemorative ceremony at Omaha Beach, Normandy. Photograph: Jacques Witt/Sipa/Rex/Shutterstock

Sunak was forced to apologise after the ITV presenter Paul Brand confirmed on News at Ten that the prime minister had returned from Normandy to speak to him. Brand said ITV was interviewing all of the party leaders and had been working to secure a date with Sunak for some time. “Today was the slot they offered us,” he said. “We don’t know why.”

Opposition politicians criticised the Sunak on Friday morning, saying he had “brought shame” on the office.

Labour’s Jonathan Ashworth said: “Yesterday’s D-day commemorations were about remembering the bravery of all those who serve our country. In choosing to prioritise his own vanity TV appearances over our veterans, Rishi Sunak has shown what is most important to him. It is yet more desperation, yet more chaos, and yet more dreadful judgment from this out-of-touch prime minister.”

The Liberal Democrat leader, Ed Davey, said: “One of the greatest privileges of the office of prime minister is to be there to honour those who served, yet Rishi Sunak abandoned them on the beaches of Normandy. He has brought shame to that office and let down our country.

“I am thinking right now of all those veterans and their families he left behind and the hurt they must be feeling. It is a total dereliction of duty and shows why this Conservative government just has to go.”

The Reform UK leader, Nigel Farage, posted on X that Sunak “could not even be bothered to attend” the Omaha Beach event.

One Tory activist said: “Lots of us are asking each other what’s the point, across associations. He allowed a former PM to get some pics next to Biden in his place. Why should we bother to continue campaigning, knocking on hundreds of doors when Sunak seems to be doing all he can to completely ruin our chance of losing in a way that’s just about tolerable.”

Sunak’s interview will not be shown in full until Wednesday night. It was part of a series of pre-recorded ITV interviews with political party leaders that will be broadcast throughout the election campaign – meaning the prime minister could have recorded it at any point in the next four days.

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On Thursday evening, ITV decided to release a short taster clip from the longer interview, in which Sunak was challenged about his tax claims, hoping to attract coverage ahead of Friday night’s televised debate between party representatives.

A Conservative source played down the diplomatic impact of the prime minister’s absence from the event, as they said Sunak would see Macron, Biden, Scholz and other key leaders at the G7 summit in Puglia, Italy, which starts next Thursday.

Sunak did attend an event on Thursday morning at Ver-sur-Mer, in Normandy, which was also attended by Macron, King Charles and Queen Camilla.

King Charles praises D-day veterans on 80th anniversary of landings – video

Sunak’s apology came minutes after a junior Conservative minister defended his absence. David Johnston told Times Radio: “As children’s minister I don’t exactly know what the prime minister’s diary looks like.

“But I do know, because we saw him at the various commemorations this week, that he has been paying tribute to our veterans and marking the D-day commemorations and I think everybody can see he’s very committed to that.”

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