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Sunak apologises for leaving D-Day event early 

In a slightly convoluted-sounding explanation, Sunak said he did not prioritise the election over what is likely to be the last major anniversary to include D-day veterans…reports Asian Lite News

Rishi Sunak has apologised for missing a key part of the D-day commemorations in northern France to film a TV interview, as he faces a wave of condemnation over what may be his biggest misstep yet in a faltering election campaign.

The prime minister was heavily criticised for leaving the 80th anniversary events for an ITV interview that is not scheduled for broadcast until next week, with opposition parties calling it crass and a dereliction of duty.

He was also forced to deny he had planned to skip the D-day commemorations altogether, as he called for the events not to be politicised.

In a slightly convoluted-sounding explanation, Sunak said he did not prioritise the election over what is likely to be the last major anniversary to include D-day veterans – saying his itinerary had been set before the election was called.

But it remained unclear why he returned to the UK early for the interview, leaving David Cameron, the foreign secretary, to take his place for the late afternoon ceremony at Omaha beach on Thursday, alongside Joe Biden, Emmanuel Macron and Olaf Scholz, the leaders of the US, France and Germany.

With many Conservatives privately dismayed at the decision, and criticism mounting overnight, Sunak tweeted an early-morning apology on Friday.

“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,” he wrote.

He sidestepped accusations that his actions showed a disdain for the military, instead claiming his record shows he has long supported the armed forces with “increasing levels of investment”.

It was subsequently reported that the French government had claimed its officials were told last week that Sunak would not attend the commemorations at all because of the general election campaign.

In a broadcast interview later on Friday, the prime minister denied the election had been a factor: “I stuck to the itinerary that had been set for me as prime minister weeks ago, before the election, fully participated.

“As I said, on reflection it was a mistake not to stay longer and I’ve apologised for that, but I also don’t think it’s right to be political in the midst of D-day commemorations. The focus should rightly be on the veterans and their service and sacrifice for our country.”

The Labour leader, Keir Starmer, said Sunak’s decision to leave Normandy early jarred with his pledge to introduce mandatory national service – intended to imbue 18-year-olds with a sense of civic duty.

A No 10 spokesperson said: “The prime minister was always scheduled to attend D-day commemorations, including the UK national commemoration event in Normandy, and it is incorrect to suggest otherwise.”

David Cameron, Emmanuel Macron, Olaf Scholz and Joe Biden pose in a line on a walkway in front of a military vehicle on a beach

Conservative activists reacted with fury to Cameron’s presence at the afternoon event, with one saying it had left them questioning whether to “bother to continue campaigning”.

The veterans minister, Johnny Mercer, told the Sun: “I get the outrage. It’s a mistake. It’s a significant mistake for which he’s apologised.”

Sunak’s apology also came 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 Sunak on Friday morning, saying he had “brought shame” on the office.

When asked if there was a mismatch between Sunak’s national service policy and his behaviour on the 80th anniversary of D-day, Starmer told the Guardian: “I think there is, and he’s going to have to answer for the choices that he made. He’s the prime minister of the United Kingdom. This was a day of reflection, of being humbled really by the efforts that other people have made on our behalf.”

He added: “For me there was nowhere else I was going to be … There was only one choice, which was to be there, to pay my respects, to say thank you and to have to speak to those veterans.”

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, tweeted 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.”

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D-Day replaced tyranny with freedom, says King

The King said their efforts to end “brutal totalitarianism” must never be forgotten…reports Asian Lite News

King Charles has paid a heartfelt tribute to those who took part in the D-Day landings, praising them for “replacing tyranny with freedom”.

“We are eternally in their debt,” the King told a commemoration on the eve of Thursday’s 80th anniversary.

He was speaking in Portsmouth, one of the key departure points for the Normandy landings in June 1944.

The King hailed the “courage, resilience and solidarity” of those who had taken part in D-Day and whose numbers were now “dwindling to so few”.

Wednesday was the first of two days of commemorative events taking place in both Britain and France.

On Wednesday evening, crowds watched a spectacular drone light show in Portsmouth.

Earlier in the day, crowds gathered near Sannerville, Normandy, to watch a large-scale parachute re-enactment of the Allied liberation of the region.

King Charles, with Queen Camilla and his son the Prince of Wales, addressed a national D-Day commemoration held under blue skies on Southsea Common on Wednesday morning.

The audience rose to their feet when veterans stood to make speeches and the Queen was brought to tears.

In his biggest public speech since his cancer diagnosis, King Charles hailed the “greatest amphibious operation in history” and the courage of those who “must have questioned if they would survive”.

The King said their efforts to end “brutal totalitarianism” must never be forgotten.

And he called on the present generation to honour those who had died, in ways that “live up to the freedom they died for, by balancing rights with civic responsibilities”.

Prince William delivered a poignant reading from the diary of Captain Alastair Bannerman, in which the soldier remembered his family as he headed towards the French coast on the morning of D-Day. Captain Bannerman survived the landing and the war, Prince William said, adding: “Too many never returned.”

Speaking to some of the veterans later, Prince William was asked about his wife Catherine’s recovery and said: “She’d love to be here today.”

He said Catherine’s grandmother had worked at Bletchley Park, the top-secret home of the World War Two codebreakers, and “never spoke about anything until the very end” of the war.

“It was all very secret,” he added.

Dame Helen Mirren praised the bravery of the veterans in attendance during her introduction to the event at 11:00 BST, while Prime Minister Rishi Sunak read an address to the crowds.

Portsmouth was one of the embarkation points on the south coast eight decades ago, as Allied forces crossed the Channel to liberate France and Western Europe from Nazi occupation.

Foundations for the Allied victory were laid by the success of the Normandy landings, in which troops from the UK, US, Canada and France conducted the largest seaborne invasion in history.

The commemorative event heard from those who took part in D-Day, including Roy Hayward, who landed in Normandy on 6 June 1944 at the age of 19.

Mr Hayward, now aged 98, said he wanted to remember those who had “fought for democracy” and “to ensure their story is never forgotten”.

Last week the King met one of the veterans of the Normandy landings, Jim Miller, who at the age of 20 had gone ashore at Juno Beach.

The King invited Mr Miller to Buckingham Palace to personally hand him his 100th birthday card.

“I am humbled to reach such a great number, especially when I think of those who fell on the Normandy beaches all those years ago,” Mr Miller said afterwards.

Earlier on Wednesday, 21 veterans attended a memorial event at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.

A further 23 surviving D-Day veterans attended commemorations in Normandy, where they were joined by Princess Anne.

There were 225 D-Day veterans able to travel to Normandy five years ago, and the Royal British Legion has said these “poignant commemorations will be our last opportunity to host a significant number of Normandy veterans”.

On Wednesday evening, a joint UK-France thanksgiving service was held at Normandy’s Bayeux Cathedral, which was illuminated in honour of those who fought on the beaches.

The King will travel to France for a commemorative event on Thursday at the British Normandy Memorial at Ver-sur-Mer, which will also be attended by the 23 veterans. The trip to France will be the King’s first overseas travel since his cancer diagnosis.

An international ceremony with more than 25 heads of state will be attended by Prince William.

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