PM 'completely wrong' to leave D-Day commemorations early, says Penny Mordaunt

The prime minister was "completely wrong" to leave D-Day commemorations early, a senior cabinet member has said.

Rishi Sunak apologised on Friday after it was revealed he skipped an international event the day before on Omaha Beach in France - attended by leaders of the US, France and Germany - to come back to the UK for a TV interview.

But as well as political condemnation, he was also criticised by veterans, with 98-year-old Ken Hay telling Sky News: "He lets this country down."

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Speaking at a BBC debate on Friday night, the Tory leader of the House, Penny Mordaunt, also repeated controversial claims that Labour would raise household taxes by £2,000.

Ms Mordaunt earlier admitted her boss should have remained at the D-Day gathering, but praised his apology, which she said he made "to veterans, but also to all of us because he was representing all of us".

The ex-Royal Naval reservist added: "I'm from Portsmouth. I've also been defence secretary. And my wish at the end of this week is that all veterans feel completely treasured.

"I'm hoping tonight to convince you of some things that are important to them, important to their legacy. And I couldn't do that if I wasn't straight with you on that issue."

However, after appealing for the row not to "become a political football", there was a barrage of attacks from her rivals over the prime minister's decision.

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The SNP's leader in Westminster Stephen Flynn said: "A prime minister who puts his own political career before public service is no prime minister at all. A prime minister who puts his own political career before Normandy war veterans is no prime minister at all.

"So it's incumbent upon all of us to do our national service and vote the Tories out of office."

Reform UK leader Nigel Farage said it was a "complete and utter disgrace" from an "unpatriotic" prime minister, adding: "If his instinct was the same as the British people, he would never have contemplated for a moment not being there for the big international celebration and it shows how disconnected he is with the people of this country."

Plaid Cymru leader Rhun ap Iorwerth said it "certainly wasn't a day for a prime minister to decide... that his priority should be to fight for his own political future", but he also criticised Mr Farage for using the commemorations as a "photo op".

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Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats' deputy leader Daisy Cooper described how during the war, her veteran grandfather caught his best friend who had fallen from the top of the tank after being shot in the head while wading through the water.

Calling Mr Sunak's decision "politically shameful", she added: "If [my grandfather] had been there yesterday and seen the prime minister walk away from him, I would have found that, as I do now, completely and utterly unforgivable."

Political figures from seven parties in the general election debated a range of issues during the show, from the NHS and housing to immigration and tax.

Labour's Angela Rayner and Ms Mordaunt sparred throughout, with an especially heated exchange over much maligned claims by the Conservatives that Labour would raise taxes by £2,000 over the next parliament.

Mr Sunak used the figure repeatedly when he debated Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer on Tuesday, but the following day a senior Treasury official said the figure "should not be presented as having been produced by the civil service" and multiple economic experts disputed the numbers.

However, Ms Mordaunt made the claim again in a terse row with Ms Rayner, also claiming Labour would "bring in 12 new taxes".

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Labour's deputy leader said it was "a lie", attacking the government for "raising taxes to a record level" during their time in office.

But the sniping gave the others on stage a chance to mock the pair, with co-leader of the Green Party, Carla Denyer, saying: "Well, that was terribly dignified, wasn't it?"