In election campaign blow, UK’s Sunak apologizes for leaving D-Day events early

by Admin
In election campaign blow, UK's Sunak apologizes for leaving D-Day events early

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, in a new setback to his election campaign, apologized Friday for leaving D-Day commemorations early to give an interview in which he attacked the main opposition party.

Sunak’s decision not to stay at the event in northern France alongside other world leaders on Thursday was met with dismay in his Conservative Party, which opinion polls suggest faces the prospect of a heavy defeat in the national election on July 4.

The leader of the opposition Labour Party, Keir Starmer, remained in Normandy for the duration of events marking the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings and was seen talking to leaders including Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

“On reflection, it was a mistake not to stay longer, and I’ve apologized for that, but I also don’t think it’s right to be political in the midst of D-Day commemorations,” Sunak told reporters. “The focus should rightly be on the veterans.”

Sunak said his plans had been set long before the start of the election campaign.

U.S. President Joe Biden, Britain’s King Charles and other leaders gathered at the events in Normandy.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, left, attends the UK national commemorative event for the 80th anniversary of D-Day, held at the British Normandy Memorial in Ver-sur-Mer, Normandy, France, June 6, 2024.

Sunak spoke at a British-led event but delegated other duties to ministers including Foreign Secretary David Cameron, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

“What happened was completely wrong, and the prime minister has rightly apologized,” senior Conservative politician Penny Mordaunt said during a televised debate on Friday.

One usually loyal Conservative politician, who asked not to be identified, said: “I can’t explain it and I won’t.”

The lawmaker said it could become the “Gillian Duffy moment” — a reference to 2010 when Gordon Brown, who was then prime minister, apologized for being caught on tape calling a voter “a bigoted woman,” a moment seen as a turning point in a campaign he lost.

Sunak’s Conservatives are lagging about 20 points behind Labour in opinion polls.

His campaign had an inauspicious start last month when he announced the election date under a downpour of rain, competing to be heard against Labour supporters blaring a pop song associated with their party’s crushing 1997 election victory.

In another blow, Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage took over leadership of the right-wing Reform UK party and said this week he would stand in the election.

‘Shabby move’

Sunak has said he is the person best placed to look after Britain’s security and that he will introduce mandatory national service if he stays in power.

But the wealthy former hedge fund executive has often been portrayed as out of touch with ordinary people during a campaign in which a cost-of-living crisis is a big issue, and he was asked repeatedly about the decision while campaigning Friday.

Chris Hopkins, political research director at the polling company Savanta, said the prime minister’s “political misjudgment seems almost laser-guided in causing Rishi Sunak and the Conservative Party as much political pain as humanly possible.”

A Savanta poll of more than 1,000 British adults showed that 68% viewed Sunak’s behavior as “unacceptable,” including 61% of people who said they had voted Conservative in 2019.

“It’s a shabby move, to be honest,” British pensioner Mark Bartlett, 73, told Reuters.

Senior Labour spokesperson Jonathan Ashworth accused Sunak of “choosing to prioritize his own vanity TV appearances over our veterans,” and “it is yet more desperation, yet more chaos.”

Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey accused Sunak of a “total dereliction of duty.”

Farage said Sunak’s decision “was a complete and utter disgrace” and showed he was “a very unpatriotic prime minister.”

In the interview with ITV on Thursday, Sunak doubled down on assertions that Labour would raise taxes by 2,000 pounds ($2,500) per household if it took power.

Labour denies having such a plan and accused Sunak of lying for saying the estimate came from the civil service, which has said it did not endorse it.

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