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  • Finlay McPherson

An Indefensible D-Day Decision

The decision of a Prime Minister, and a Conservative one at that, to remove themself from such a momentous day as the eightieth anniversary of D-Day is a completely indefensible move. One that reflects not only the lack of political acumen on show from Number 10, but deeply disrespects the heroes of eighty years ago and the office of the Prime Minister. It should be the final blow to his premiership.  

During celebrations to commemorate the landings’ eightieth anniversary, a military operation to mark the beginning of the liberation of Europe from Nazism and the reassertion of liberty and democracy across Europe, France’s President Macron cut a sombre and dignified figure as he met, and showed his respect for, surviving veterans. Many of whom are now 100 years old. He welcomed them ‘home’ to the beaches and cliff sides they liberated in the early stages of the invasion, making sure to acknowledge the fact that thousands of their fellow soldiers have never returned from the same, fateful operation. This was a dedication echoed by the King, who greeted veterans and their families alongside his wife, Camilia, and the French President with his wife, Bridgette Macron. This all occurred in sharp contrast to Rishi Sunak, who left the commemorations early in order to conduct an ITV interview in the UK. That the latter was intended to clear his name makes its irony near-palpable.  If ever there was a more apparent contrast between the respect that two dignitaries give to high office, this was it. 

When Sunak’s conduct is compared to that of other leaders in attendance, including Germany’s Olaf Sholz and America’s Joe Biden, it is particularly disgraceful. The fact that a British Prime Minister wouldn’t stay long into the day, to meet and thank, amongst many others, British veterans, is awful. D-Day involved over 61,000 British soldiers, claiming the lives of over 1000. Moreover, his decision is also baffling in a number of ways. It shows a complete lack of political nous: why would anyone believe that it was a good idea for one often attacked by his detractors as not caring about the British people or its interests step away from an event that people across the country will be tuning into? It’s even more of a disaster when taking into consideration the fact that the Tories under Rishi Sunak now face being overtaken by Nigel Farage’s Reform UK. In recent weeks, the two have often been placed almost neck and neck across national polling. Reform UK has been attempting to paint the Conservative Party as unpatriotic and full of politicians that serve only their interests. By leaving D-Day commemorations early, Sunak has played benignly into Reform’s hands, leaving them an open goal already being exploited. In addition, it allowed Keir Starmer, who did stay the duration of events, to ease concerns from those who thought he couldn’t cut it on the world stage. He appeared prime ministerial, and held court with European leaders like Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky. In the immediate aftermath of a debate in which Sunak attempted to paint Starmer as someone that would not look after the security of the nation, and who would diminish Britain's standing on the world stage, it would be Sunak leaving Britain Prime Minister-less during one of the most poignant acts of diplomacy or remembrance for decades. 

However, Sunak’s dishonourable stumble is not the most egregious aspect of the situation. It’s the disrespect of the affair. The D-Day landings were a pivotal part of the struggle against Nazism, and began the long and hard drove through Europe. It was fought not for territorial gain or for resources but to reestablish liberty and democracy, securing the free future of Europe. It required endless planning and the participation of thousands of young soldiers, many of whom were only eighteen or nineteen years of age, who were prepared to pay, and in too many cases paid, the ultimate sacrifice. For a British Prime Minister to leave a commemoration that will be the last one in which many veterans will be there in person is reprehensible. Rishi Sunak has not only embarrassed himself, but he has sullied the office of the Prime Minister. Had the monarchy not been so diligent in their own treatment of the veterans, Sunak would have risked the most enormous embarrassment to the UK - and on a day so stark in its national history. It was up to David Cameron to join the European leaders for a photo to mark the day, and to remember those who sacrificed themselves on the beaches of Normandy to protect our freedom.

In an election campaign fraught with mishaps and mistakes from the Prime Minister himself, this is one on a more distinct and hurtful level. Sunak’s premiership may be relegated to the footnotes of history but this is a misstep that will stay long in the consciousness of the British public. Certainly, it will not be forgotten at the ballot box come the 4th July.


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