A squirming Rishi Sunak today issued a grovelling apology in front of TV cameras for leaving D-Day commemoration events early. 

The embattled Prime Minister, who is facing a huge Tory backlash, admitted that he ‘made a mistake’ in skipping a major international ceremony in Normandy.

Speaking to broadcasters on a general election campaign visit to Swindon, Wiltshire, Mr Sunak was grilled about veterans saying he had ‘let the country down’.

‘I care deeply,’ the PM insisted, as he called for D-Day events not to be ‘politicised’.

Mr Sunak, who issued an initial apology on social media early this morning, spoke after Sir Keir Starmer twisted the knife amid the growing row.

The Labour leader told the PM he was ‘going to have to answer for the choices that he made’.

‘For me there was only one choice, which was to be there,’ Sir Keir said, as he commented on the controversy that has engulfed his Tory rival.

Mr Sunak’s bad day got worse later this evening when he was hackled at a campaign event by a GP over the state of the NHS.

He told Conservative members the economy was growing and wages had been rising for almost a year, adding: ‘That shows that we are on the right track.’

Dr Jane Lees-Millais shouted from the audience: ‘But the NHS is disintegrating. I am one of 2,500 GPs in this country who are currently unemployed due to your policies.

‘What are you going to do about that? 37,000 GPs will not vote Conservative because of the constructive dismissal of general practice that is currently occurring.’

A squirming Rishi Sunak today issued a grovelling apology in front of TV cameras for leaving D-Day commemoration events early

A squirming Rishi Sunak today issued a grovelling apology in front of TV cameras for leaving D-Day commemoration events early

The Prime Minister, pictured yesterday with his wife Akshata Murty, is facing a furious backlash over his decision toskip a major international ceremony in Normandy

The Prime Minister, pictured yesterday with his wife Akshata Murty, is facing a furious backlash over his decision toskip a major international ceremony in Normandy

Labour's Sir Keir Starmer told Mr Sunak he was 'going to have to answer for the choices that he made' as he twisted the knife amid the growing row

Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer told Mr Sunak he was ‘going to have to answer for the choices that he made’ as he twisted the knife amid the growing row

Mr Sunak's bad day got worse later this evening when he was hackled at a campaign event by a GP over the state of the NHS.

Mr Sunak’s bad day got worse later this evening when he was hackled at a campaign event by a GP over the state of the NHS.

Dr Jane Lees-Millais shouted from the audience: 'I am one of 2,500 GPs in this country who are currently unemployed due to your policies. What are you going to do about that?'

Dr Jane Lees-Millais shouted from the audience: ‘I am one of 2,500 GPs in this country who are currently unemployed due to your policies. What are you going to do about that?’

She added: ‘The country is not stupid. They know when lesser-qualified people are being used to conduct consultations which are massively complex.’

The Prime Minister stopped a counter-heckler during the event in Wiltshire before answering Dr Jane Lees-Millais’ question about GP contracts.

Rishi Sunak said: ‘My dad was a GP but my mum was also a pharmacist, so that is the household I grew up in. My parents dedicated themselves to primary care. I know a thing or two about it. I worked very hard at my mum’s pharmacy.’

Mr Sunak said he was supporting GPs with new investment in ‘digital telephony’.

He added: ‘We are also making it easier for people to see other primary care practitioners to get the treatments they need.

‘That is where I will respectfully disagree with you because I do think it is right that people can now see their pharmacist to get medicines for… common ailments.’

Mr Sunak also said he would ‘always support primary care’.

Even the PM’s own veterans minister admitted Mr Sunak had made a ‘significant mistake’ by leaving D-Day memorial events early to carry out a TV interview.

Johnny Mercer said he understood the ‘outrage’ at the PM’s actions.

Senior Tories focused their anger on Mr Sunak’s ‘inexperienced’ team in No10, after his aides seemingly failed to see the PM’s early departure would cause such anger.

A Tory former minister told MailOnline: ‘The PM, to his credit, apologised for his mistake. He can’t do more.

‘But No 10 is run by unimpressive, inexperienced young people who are simply not up to the job. A more senior aide would never have let this happen.

‘The PM should take early action to plug this glaring gap in his team.’

Both Downing Street and Mr Sunak himself denied reports he was initially considering missing the D-Day commemorations altogether.

A No 10 spokesperson said: ‘The PM was always scheduled to attend D-Day commemorations, including the UK National Commemoration event in Normandy, and it is incorrect to suggest otherwise.’

Even the PM's own veterans minister Johnny Mercer admitted Mr Sunak had made a 'significant mistake' by leaving D-Day memorial events early to carry out a TV interview.

Even the PM’s own veterans minister Johnny Mercer admitted Mr Sunak had made a ‘significant mistake’ by leaving D-Day memorial events early to carry out a TV interview.

In a social media post this morning, Mr Sunak admitted 'it was a mistake not to stay in France longer - and I apologise'

In a social media post this morning, Mr Sunak admitted ‘it was a mistake not to stay in France longer – and I apologise’

The PM visited a school on a road called Veterans Way in his second election campaign visit of the day

The PM visited a school on a road called Veterans Way in his second election campaign visit of the day

Mr Sunak attended the UK national event at Portsmouth on Wednesday and then the British ceremony in Normandy yesterday, the anniversary of the Allied landings.

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

Instead, Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron was the senior UK minister at the event and was pictured with Mr Biden, France’s Emmanuel Macron, and Germany’s Olaf Scholz.

Sir Keir stayed for the international ceremony and was photographed mingling with global leaders, including Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky.

It later emerged that Mr Sunak had given a broadcast interview following his return from Normandy, a clip of which was shared by ITV journalist Paul Brand. 

Mr Brand told ITV News at Ten: ‘Today was the slot we were offered… we don’t know why.’ 

In a social media post this morning, Mr Sunak admitted ‘it was a mistake not to stay in France longer – and I apologise’.

Speaking later on his campaign visit to Wiltshire, the PM said: ‘Over the past two days I’ve participated in a number of events in Portsmouth and France to honour those who risked their lives to defend our freedom and our values 80 years ago.

‘The itinerary for these events was set weeks ago before the start of the general election campaign, and having participated in all the British events with British veterans, I returned home before the international leaders event later in the day.

‘On reflection, that was a mistake and I apologise.

‘I think it’s important though, given the enormity of the sacrifice made, that we don’t politicise this. The focus should rightly be on the veterans who gave so much.

‘I had the honour and privilege of speaking to many of them and their families, hearing their stories, expressing my gratitude, personally to them.

‘But I’m someone who will always admit when I’ve made a mistake and that’s what you’ll always get from me.’

Mr Sunak was challenged about the views of Ken Hay, a 98-year-old D-Day veteran, who told Sky News the PM had ‘let the country down’.

Mr Hay had told the news channel of Mr Sunak: ‘He’s electioneering. I think it lets down the country.

‘It’s not the representation of how we should weld together, trying to keep the peace.’ 

Mr Sunak later visited a school on a road called Veterans Way in Gloucestershire in his second election campaign visit of the day.

Speaking during a campaign visit of his own in Greater London this morning, Sir Keir said: ‘Rishi Sunak will have to answer for his choice.

‘For me 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.’

Asked whether the PM’s apology had drawn a line under the row, Sir Keir said: ‘He has to answer for his own actions, for me there was nowhere else I was going to be.’

Sir Keir Starmer agreed there was a ‘mismatch’ between Mr Sunak’s proposal to require 18-year-olds to do national service and his decision to leave the D-Day commemorations early.

He added: ‘I think there is and he’s going to have to answer for the choices that he made.’

In a letter to Defence Secretary Grant Shapps today, Labour’s John Healey listed a series of questions for the Cabinet minister to answer about the PM’s D-Day attendance.

The shadow defence secretary wrote: ‘There are many people across the country, especially within Armed Forces communities, who feel betrayed and feel that Britain has been let down by the PM.

‘The public deserve clear explanations from the PM and those around him about why this dreadful decision was made.

‘I trust that these are the questions you are asking, and you will respond as soon as possible.’

The Liberal Democrats called on Mr Sunak to give the £5million of donations received by the Tories from controversial businessman Frank Hester in January to a veterans’ charity.

Their defence spokesman Richard Foord said: ‘The PM has badly let down veterans and our country. He disrespected his office and the United Kingdom.’

Reform UK leader Nigel Farage said ‘patriotic people who love their country’ should not vote for Rishi Sunak after his snub of the international D-Day anniversary event.

He told Sky News: ‘This was the last time ever there’ll be a gathering of veterans on parade in Normandy, and if he’s not prepared to go to the international commemoration with the heads of so many different countries, overlooking a beach on which our American allies lost thousands of men, that says a lot about him.

‘He is completely disconnected from the centre of this country and he’s proved to me that he basically is not a patriotic leader of the Conservative Party.’

Mr Mercer said Mr Sunak’s decision to leave the commemorations in Normandy early was a ‘significant mistake’.

He told The Sun he understood the outrage but defended the PM’s record on veterans.

The veterans’ minister said: ‘I get the outrage. It’s a mistake. It’s a significant mistake for which he’s apologised.

‘But I’m also not going to join the howls of the fake veterans supporters who say he doesn’t treat veterans correctly, because it’s not correct.’

Appearing on the newspaper’s Never Mind The Ballots show, he added: ‘Obviously it’s a mistake. The PM on these visits receives a lot of advice on what he should and shouldn’t be doing.

‘I’ve spoken to the PM this morning and obviously it’s disappointing.

‘But I do find the faux outrage from people who’ve done nothing but make my life difficult trying to improve veterans’ affairs over the years is pretty nauseating, to be frank.’

It later emerged that Mr Sunak had given a broadcast interview following his return from Normandy, a clip of which was shared by ITV journalist Paul Brand

It later emerged that Mr Sunak had given a broadcast interview following his return from Normandy, a clip of which was shared by ITV journalist Paul Brand 

Mr Sunak's early departure saw Foreign Secretary David Cameron pictured alongside US President Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron, and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz

Mr Sunak’s early departure saw Foreign Secretary David Cameron pictured alongside US President Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron, and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz

Sir Keir stayed for the international ceremony, during which he met with Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelensky

Sir Keir stayed for the international ceremony, during which he met with Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky

Mr Sunak was facing widespread anger from within his own Tory ranks, with fears he had dealt a shattering blow to the Conservatives’ general election hopes.

A former minister told MailOnline: ‘It simply underlines what dreadful advice he gets from the No10 operation.

‘And begs the question why he went to the country when D-Day was obviously a huge event.

‘He could have been seen as an international statesman, rather than someone who doesn’t show respect to the fallen.

‘And bear in mind, too, that polls already show [Nigel] Farage ahead among the over-55s.’

One Tory defending a northern seat said it could be as bad as Theresa May’s 2017 social care announcement, which prompted her notorious ‘nothing has changed’ U-turn. ‘We’ll know over the next week,’ they said. 

Another told MailOnline the humilating episode would do particular damage with the older generation of voters the party has been targeting.

They expressed worries about a Conservative wipeout on 4 July, saying: ‘Honestly fear a rump of 70 led by Priti [Patel] that strikes a deal with Farage in 18 months is becoming possible, even likely.’ 

Conservative commentator Tim Montgomerie told BBC Newsnight of the PM’s decision to leave Normandy early: ‘If he came back for a political interview from the D-Day commemoration, that is absolutely indefensible.

‘This is going to be the last big commemoration when survivors will be present.

‘I think it’s political malpractice of the highest order if Rishi Sunak absented himself for an election interview on ITV.’

One Conservative MP, in reference to ex-Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn refusing to sing the national anthem early on in his leadership, told the Spectator: ‘This is Corbyn levels of disrespect.’

Colonel Richard Kemp, a former British Army commander in Afghanistan, told the Mirror: ‘I know there is a general election campaign to fight but this is a very significant anniversary of a major military achievement which led to freedom in Europe.

‘It’s being attended by some of the veterans who may never attend another due to their age. I think it was very important that he showed his commitment to it.

‘He should have stayed. As the PM of our country he should have been there to represent the country and to show our gratitude to those who fell.’

In his apology posted on X/Twitter this morning, the PM wrote: ‘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.

‘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.’

Following Mr Sunak’s apology, Labour shadow minister Jonathan Ashworth said: ‘Yesterday’s D-Day commemorations were about remembering the bravery of all those who serve our country.

‘In choosing to prioritise his own vanity TV appearances over our veterans, Rishi Sunak has shown what is most important to him.

‘It is yet more desperation, yet more chaos, and yet more dreadful judgment from this out of touch PM.’

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said: ‘One of the greatest privileges of the office of PM 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.’

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