RISHI Sunak has apologised after skipping a major international ceremony to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day in order to carry out a General Election TV interview.

The Prime Minister said “it was a mistake” not to stay in France for the international event after he had attended the earlier British ceremony in Normandy.

Sunak has come under intense criticism after it emerged he missed the event with fellow world leaders to head back to the UK for an ITV interview.

(Image: Twitter/X)

The Prime Minister said: “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.”

The Prime Minister attended the UK national event at Portsmouth on Wednesday and then the British ceremony in Normandy on Thursday, the anniversary of the allied landings on D-Day.

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But he left France before world leaders including US President Joe Biden gathered for the main international ceremony on Thursday afternoon.

Instead, Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron was the senior UK minister at the event.

It was also an opportunity for Sunak’s rival for the keys to No 10, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer (below) to mingle with world leaders on the global stage.

(Image: PA)

In his apology on Friday, Sunak said: “The 80th anniversary of D-Day has been a profound moment to honour the brave men and women who put their lives on the line to protect our values, our freedom and our democracy.

“This anniversary should be about those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. The last thing I want is for the commemorations to be overshadowed by politics.”

Sunak was condemned by political rivals and the decision has also caused unease in Tory ranks.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said Sunak’s actions had brought shame to the office of prime minister.

“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,” Davey said.

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“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.”

For Labour, shadow paymaster general Jonathan Ashworth said: “The Prime Minister skipping off early from D-Day commemorations to record a television interview where he once again lied through his teeth is both an embarrassment and a total dereliction of duty.

“Our country deserves so much better than out-of-touch, desperate Rishi Sunak and his chaotic Tory Party.”

The Prime Minister sat down with ITV on Thursday to defend claims he had made about Labour’s tax plans, having left commemoration events in France before the gathering of the world leaders on Omaha Beach.

The broadcaster said the timing of the interview, which will not be aired in full until next week, had been offered by the Conservatives.

He had appeared in Normandy earlier in the day to pay tribute to veterans but returned to Britain before the ceremony was over, while his rival Starmer remained alongside Biden, Emmanuel Macron and the Prince of Wales.

It later emerged that Sunak had given a broadcast interview on the same day, a clip of which was shared by broadcaster Paul Brand.

Brand told ITV News At Ten: “Today was the slot we were offered … we don’t know why.”

John Swinney reaction

Scotland's First Minister has said "it's becoming ever more clear that it's all over for the Conservative Party" at a campaign event on Friday. 

He criticised Sunak's "foolish decision to turn his back on the D-Day commemorations".

"In this election, people in Scotland have got to think long and hard about whether they want to vote for a Labour Party that will deliver Tory spending cuts or do they want to vote for the Scottish National Party that will invest in the future of Scotland and put Scotland's interests first," he said.