He seemed oblivious to how affronted the British people would feel at any sign that this stuff didn’t matter to the person at the top.


D-Day in Britain is an anniversary deeply etched into nation’s psyche. An immense source of national pride, it marks the country’s role in the liberation of Europe, where thousands of men died and thousands more were wounded fighting for freedom as they stormed the beaches of France against Nazi gunfire.

Some of the 100 or so men still alive, in their late 90s or past 100, were at Omaha Beach on Thursday to mark the occasion.

Having left it to colleagues to handle, Sunak was first attacked on late-night TV. On the BBC, Tim Montgomerie, a veteran conservative journalist, said mournfully: “I want to put my head in my hands. If he came back for a political interview from the D-Day commemorations that is indefensible. It’s political malpractice of the highest order.” It spread like wildfire on social media.

Sunak then woke up to headlines such as The Daily Mirror screaming: “PM Ditches D-Day”.

He sought to explain his decision by stressing that he had “fully participated in all the British events with British veterans”. And he denied showing disdain for veterans, urging people to “judge me by my actions when it comes to supporting the armed forces”.

Gaffe-prone British PM Rishi Sunak visits a school in Stonehouse, England, on Friday.

Gaffe-prone British PM Rishi Sunak visits a school in Stonehouse, England, on Friday.Credit: Getty

His problem is that his opponent, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, remained in Normandy for the duration of events and was seen talking to leaders including Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Labour accused Sunak of a dereliction of duty, while the Liberal Democrats said he had “brought shame” on the office of prime minister. Nigel Farage, whose Reform party is set to cannibalise the conservative vote, branded the prime minister a “complete and utter disgrace”.

Johnny Mercer, Sunak’s own veterans minister, called it a “significant mistake”, while some Tory MPs compared the incident to Labour leader Gordon Brown’s indiscreet 2010 election campaign reference to voter Gillian Duffy as a “bigoted woman”.


The D-Day incident – the most serious blunder of the campaign so far – follows a series of embarrassing photo opportunities where Sunak stood in the rain in Downing Street to announce the snap election, asked Welsh football fans if they were looking forward to the Euros (for which they have not qualified) and launched his first policy announcements from a museum of the ill-fated Titanic.

Political campaigners often say that it’s the thing that you’re not prepared for that ends up hurting you the most in an election campaign.

But just how Sunak could stuff up something so obvious seems incomprehensible. And how he manages to get through the next four weeks is now anybody’s guess.