Minister condemns Rishi Sunak for leaving D-Day celebrations early

A Tory minister has said he was “surprised and disappointed” by Rishi Sunak’s decision to snub commemorations for the 80th anniversary of D-Day.

Becoming the latest member of the PM’s top team to condemn him over the gaffe, policing minister Chris Philp said Mr Sunak “made a mistake”.

It followed criticism from transport secretary Mark Harper, who said the prime minister had made a mistake and apologised for it. That came after House of Commons leader Penny Mordaunt, a Navy reservist, who branded MR Sunak’s snub “completely wrong”.

Rishi Sunak left the D-Day commemorations early (POOL/AFP/Getty)
Rishi Sunak left the D-Day commemorations early (POOL/AFP/Getty)

Mr Sunak has apologised for leaving the D-Day commemorations early.

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The prime minister skipped out on the international ceremony attended by other world leaders, including US president Joe Biden and French president Emmanuel Macron, to mark the 80th anniversary of the Allied landings.

He instead returned to the UK to take part in an ITV interview in which he sought to defend his claims about Labour’s tax plans after criticism from the head of the Treasury and the UK’s statistics watchdog.

The gaffe has caused indignation in Tory circles, with general election candidates claiming the PM is giving Labour a free pass.

In an embarrassing moment for Mr Sunak, work and pensions secretary Mel Stride was forced on Sunday to insist he was not planning to quit before the 4 July general election.

Chris Philp said he was surprised and disappointed by the decision (Sky News)
Chris Philp said he was surprised and disappointed by the decision (Sky News)

But as the D-Day gaffe continues to dominate the campaign, Mr Philp was quizzed about it on Monday morning.

Asked about how he felt personally when he saw the PM’s decision, he told Sky News: “I was surprised and disappointed.”

But, coming to Mr Sunak’s defence, he said: “He apologised. And if you look at his track record, looking after veterans and funding the armed services, he’s got a good track record… a track record that he can be proud of, a track record the party can be proud of and a track record the country can be proud of.”

Mr Sunak has not had a TV interview since being asked on Friday about claims from 98-year-old D-Day veteran Ken Hay, who said he had let the country down.

“He lets the country down, you know. It’s not the representation of how we’re trying to weld things together to keep the peace,” Mr Hay told Sky News.

Asked whether Mr Hay was right, the PM said: ““It was a real honour and a privilege to meet many veterans and speak to them and their families, hear their stories, express my gratitude to them and build on our record of making sure this is the best country in the world for veterans.”

Critics have accused Mr Sunak of going into hiding, but the PM is set to break his silence with a short broadcast interview on Monday morning before a BBC Panorama interview with Nick Robinson airs at 8.00pm.