Election campaign day 15: Sunak returns to election trail after D-Day ceremony

With the General Election in full swing, Rishi Sunak is returning from the D-Day commemorations ahead of a major international ceremony to mark the 80th anniversary of the Normandy landings.

Here are the key moments from day 15 of the campaign:

– Sunak heads back to Blighty

Events in northern France meant that campaigning in the election has taken a back seat for a second day.

Earlier in the day, the Prime Minister addressed veterans at the main British Normandy Memorial ceremony, telling them: “We owe you everything.”

However, he then headed back to the UK before the high-profile gathering at Omaha Beach, leaving his rival, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, to rub shoulders with the likes of Joe Biden and Emmanuel Macron as well as the Prince of Wales.

Tory sources played down the diplomatic impact of Mr Sunak’s absence, pointing out he will be meeting other G7 leaders next week at a summit in Italy.

However, he was accused by newly reinstalled Reform UK leader Nigel Farage of having “ducked out” of the ceremony so he could campaign in the election.

“I am here in Normandy in a personal capacity because I think it matters. Does he?” he posted on social media.

– Quote of the day

– Donations count

With hostilities between the two main parties largely suspended for the day, much of the focus has been on the latest figures from the Electoral Commission on political donations.

Topping the list of Tory backers was the businessman Frank Hester who gave another £5 million in the first three months of this year, on top of the £10 million he gave last year.

Frank Hester speaking from a podium
Businessman Frank Hester has given another £5 million to the Tories (CHOGM Rwanda 2022/YouTube/PA)

Mr Hester was forced to apologise when it emerged earlier this year that he had said Labour veteran Diane Abbott made him want to “hate all black women” and that she “should be shot”.

His latest donation, made in January, was received before the row erupted but that did not stop a fresh wave of criticism of the Tories for taking his money.

Ms Abbott, finally confirmed this week as a Labour candidate, said it was “an insult to me and all black women”.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said Rishi Sunak should “hang his head in shame” and called on other Tory donors to demand their money back.

Elsewhere, the list, which relates to the period before Mr Sunak called the election, showed Labour received donations from two of the country’s best-known artists – Sir Grayson Perry, who gave £180,000, and Maggi Hambling who donated £85,000.

– Picture of the day

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey, flipping burgers in a back garden barbecue
Sir Ed Davey, flipping burgers in a back garden barbecue (Will Durrant/PA)

– Ross’s U-turn

After Mr Farage’s unexpected announcement that he is standing in Clacton, Douglas Ross, leader of the Scottish Tories, has also had a change of heart and will be running on July 4.

Mr Ross, who was MP for Moray in the last parliament, had previously said he would not be seeking a return to Westminster so he could focus on his duties in the Scottish Parliament.

Douglas Ross speaking in front of a Scottish Conservatives backdropp
Douglas Ross has announced he will be standing in the election on July 4 (PA)

But on Wednesday evening there came the news that the party’s expected candidate for Aberdeenshire North and Moray East David Duguid had been barred from standing on grounds of ill health after undergoing spinal surgery.

At a hastily arranged news conference on Thursday, Mr Ross said that having thought “long and hard” over the preceding 12 hours he had decided it was his duty to “lead from the front” and stand in his place.

The other parties were not impressed, describing it as “another broken promise” by the Tories.

The SNP’s Kate Forbes, Scotland’s Deputy First Minister, said it was “straight out of the Farage playbook” and does not show the Conservatives “in any decent light”.

– Social media moment

While TikTok has become something of a battleground for General Election campaigning in recent weeks, the platform was absent of posts from the two main parties on day 15 as their leaders took time to reflect on the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

Taking to X, formerly Twitter, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and leader of the Lib Dems Sir Ed Davey paused the usual campaigning on their profiles to mark the anniversary, sharing video clips and photos of the leaders speaking with veterans and sharing words of remembrance.

On the party accounts, campaigning did continue, though the Conservatives appeared to lean into the anniversary by sharing their pledge to bring in a new Veterans’ Bill with the caption: “We’ve got a clear plan to make the UK the best country to be a veteran.”

The Labour Party appeared to continue with business as usual, however, sharing posts alleging that Mr Sunak’s “unfunded gimmicks put your pensions at risk” while the Lib Dems shared an image of Sir Ed Davey in front of a barbeque as they declared: “Cooking up our next policy announcement.”

– What the polls are saying

Two opinion polls have been published in the past 24 hours, both of which show Labour continuing to enjoy a comfortable lead.

A line chart showing the seven-day rolling average for political parties in opinion polls from February 6 to June 6, with the final point showing Labour on 44%, Conservatives 23%, Reform 12%, Lib Dems 9% and Green 7%. Source: PA graphic
(PA Graphics)

A survey by Ipsos puts Labour 20 percentage points ahead of the Conservatives while YouGov gives them a 21-point advantage.

An average of all polls that were carried out wholly or partly during the seven days to June 6 puts Labour on 44%, 21 points ahead of the Conservatives on 23%, followed by Reform on 12%, the Lib Dems on 9% and the Greens on 5%.

– What’s happening tomorrow

Nominations for the election close at 4pm.

Labour’s ruling national executive committee holds its Clause V meeting to sign off on the party’s manifesto.

Mr Sunak is campaigning in the South West.