Updated: Rishi Sunak’s team has been in touch to deny his attendance was ever in doubt at the D-Day commemorations. The discussion, according to officials was over which elements he would attend.

Claims by Tory ministers and sources – and reported by Reaction – that the French government was told a week ago Rishi Sunak would not attend the D-Day 80th commemoration are being denied categorically by Sunak’s communications team as it scrambles to clear up the mess left by the decision to leave early.

“It is baseless,” said a spokesman.

Officials say the discussion with the French was over whether he would stay until the end. “He was always going to go to France,” said one.

Remember, this is the commemoration of the liberation of Western Europe in which thousands of Allied troops lost their lives.

The PM was so keen to get back to the campaign trail that he left early, leaving Lord Cameron to be in the final picture with President Macron and President Biden.

Instead, Sunak went back to Britain to be interviewed by ITV’s Paul Brand about taxation for that channel’s 10 pm news.

The baffling decision to leave early has sparked Tory fury and bewilderment and prompted a flurry of questions.

Including…

What about duty?

And how can a Tory leader desperately trying to secure the votes of pensioners, who tend to take the sacrifice of the Second World War seriously, miss the point that the D-Day ceremony, right until the end, trumps all?

What was he thinking? Was this sheer clumsiness or stubbornness on his part that once he has decided against an event and saw it as a disruption of the campaign media grid he had to get back quickly?

Shouldn’t it have been obvious what Nigel Farage, hot on Sunak’s tail, will make of this in coming days? To say nothing of what Labour will make of it.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer stayed until the end and was pictured with President Zelensky of Ukraine. Labour’s social media team then put out a video of the party leader hymning the sacrifice of the fallen.

On Friday morning, the Prime Minister apologised:

“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.”

He continued: “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.”

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