Penny Mordaunt brands Rishi Sunak D-Day snub "completely wrong" as he's criticised for "dodging" media

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Leader of the House of Commons Penny Mordaunt has branded Rishi Sunak’s decision to not attend a major ceremony for the 80th anniversary of D-Day as “completely wrong”.

The Conservative candidate for Portsmouth North made her feelings known during a BBC TV debate on Friday. Mr Sunak, of Southampton, said “it was a mistake” that he decided not to stay in France for the international event commemorating the Normandy Landings - attending an ITV interview instead. He apologised for the decision, but the fallout has continued.

Foreign secretary Lord Cameron attended instead. Mr Sunak read out a letter from a soldier involved in D-Day at the service in Southsea Common on Wednesday. Members of the public in Portsmouth condemned the prime minister’s decision, branding it as “disgusting”.

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Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt said Rishi Sunak not staying for a D-Day event was "completely wrong", as the fallout of his decision continues. The Portsmouth North candidate took part in a BBC Election Debate on June 7. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt said Rishi Sunak not staying for a D-Day event was "completely wrong", as the fallout of his decision continues. The Portsmouth North candidate took part in a BBC Election Debate on June 7. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt said Rishi Sunak not staying for a D-Day event was "completely wrong", as the fallout of his decision continues. The Portsmouth North candidate took part in a BBC Election Debate on June 7. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire | Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Ms Mordaunt, a Royal Navy reservist, said: ”What happened was completely wrong and the Prime Minister has rightly apologised for that, apologised to veterans but also to all of us, because he was representing all of us.” The politician added that the situation should not become “political football”. Reform UK leader Nigel Farage replied: “Well, it already is. It already is because the veterans themselves are speaking out saying he’s let the country down.”

An opportunity for reporters to quiz Mr Sunak did not take place as was originally planned on Saturday during the general election campaign trail. The Tories cited time constraints for the cancellation, as Mr Sunak toured County Durham and Yorkshire. The planned “huddle” with journalists was called off as the D-Day row continued, and after his awkward exchange with broadcasters a day earlier.

Labour’s shadow paymaster general Jonathan Ashworth said: “If Rishi Sunak is going to come out with yet another desperate wishlist of manifesto proposals this weekend, the least he can do is face up to proper public scrutiny over how he plans to pay for them, what the impact on people’s finances will be, and when he intends to deliver on the first set of pledges he made to the British people 18 months ago. But instead, he has spent the day ducking the cameras and dodging all those legitimate questions; just another farcical episode in this calamitous Conservative campaign.”

From left: Reform UK leader Nigel Farage, leader of Plaid Cymru Rhun ap Iorwerth, Liberal Democrat deputy leader Daisy Cooper, Stephen Flynn of the SNP, co-leader of the Green Party Carla Denyer, deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner and Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA WireFrom left: Reform UK leader Nigel Farage, leader of Plaid Cymru Rhun ap Iorwerth, Liberal Democrat deputy leader Daisy Cooper, Stephen Flynn of the SNP, co-leader of the Green Party Carla Denyer, deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner and Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
From left: Reform UK leader Nigel Farage, leader of Plaid Cymru Rhun ap Iorwerth, Liberal Democrat deputy leader Daisy Cooper, Stephen Flynn of the SNP, co-leader of the Green Party Carla Denyer, deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner and Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire | Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Mr Sunak met volunteers away from public view at a walled garden in Bishop Auckland, before attending a village fete in Great Ayton, a North Yorkshire village in his Richmond constituency. His decision surrounding D-Day prompted a fierce backlash from political rivals and some Conservatives already nervous about their party’s electoral prospects.

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Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said people were “flabbergasted” by Mr Sunak’s actions, which was “such a letdown for our whole country and our history, particularly for our brave veterans”. “I share the concerns of veterans and people across the country who feel really let down and are upset, and indeed some very angry,” he said. Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer stressed he felt it was his “duty” to thank veterans at the D-Day event the Prime Minister skipped.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak talking to a person at a village fete in Great Ayton, Yorkshire while on the General Election campaign trail. The fallout from his D-Day decision has continued. Picture: Peter Byrne/PA WirePrime Minister Rishi Sunak talking to a person at a village fete in Great Ayton, Yorkshire while on the General Election campaign trail. The fallout from his D-Day decision has continued. Picture: Peter Byrne/PA Wire
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak talking to a person at a village fete in Great Ayton, Yorkshire while on the General Election campaign trail. The fallout from his D-Day decision has continued. Picture: Peter Byrne/PA Wire | Peter Byrne/PA Wire

Mark Harper, transport secretary, repeated Mr Sunak’s suggestion it had always been his intention to leave before the international event on Omaha Beach, even before the election was called. He told BBC Breakfast on Saturday: “I don’t know what the detail was of putting the Prime Minister’s schedule together, which, as he said, was done some time ago before the election campaign was called. But look, it was a mistake. People make mistakes. The Prime Minister has made a mistake. He’s apologised for it. And he’s apologised to those that would have been particularly hurt by it.”

The Tories have sought to move on from the row with new policy offers, including a pledge to axe stamp duty for first-time buyers on homes up to £425,000. They also set out their “Backing Drivers Bill” which would ban Wales-style blanket 20mph limits and reverse the Ultra Low Emission Zone (Ulez) expansion from inner into outer London.

Sir Keir detailed Labour’s plans for small businesses, including an overhaul of the business rates system, at a brewery in Camden alongside Dragons’ Den star Deborah Meaden. Sir Ed tried his hand at tennis in Newbury and visited an adventure golf course in Wokingham as he promoted the Lib Dems’ proposal to plough £50 million a year into creating three new national parks.

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