Mordaunt calls Sunak D-Day decision ‘completely wrong’ and clashes with Rayner on £2000 tax claim in fiery BBC election debate

Mordaunt calls Sunak D-Day decision ‘completely wrong’ and clashes with Rayner on £2000 tax claim in fiery BBC election debate

Penny Mordaunt said the Prime Minister leaving the D-Day 80th anniversary commemorations early was “completely wrong” and clashed with Angela Rayner over the Tories’ £2000 tax claim about Labour in a fiery general election debate on Friday evening.

Navy reservist Ms Mordaunt said it was right that Rishi Sunak apologised not only to veterans but to the public over his decision to miss the international commemoration event in Normandy on Thursday to do an election interview with ITV.

But she claimed his actions should not become “a political football” as the PM came under fire from all directions over his actions during the seven-way BBC debate, with Nigel Farage branding him “unpatriotic”.

The Commons leader said: “What happened was completely wrong, and the Prime Minister has rightly apologised for that, apologised to veterans but also to all of us, because he was representing all of us.

“I’m from Portsmouth, I have also been defence secretary and my wish is at the end of this week is that all of our veterans feel completely treasured.”

Asked if she would have left Normandy early as Mr Sunak did on Thursday, Ms Mordaunt said: “I didn’t go to D-Day, I think what happened was very wrong, I think the Prime Minister has apologised for that.

“But what I also think is important is we honour their legacy, they fought for our freedom, and unless we are spending the right amount on defence we can’t honour that legacy.”

She later added: “I don’t want this issue to become a political football.”

From left, Reform UK leader Nigel Farage, leader of Plaid Cymru Rhun ap Iorwerth, Liberal Democrat deputy leader Daisy Cooper, Stephen Flynn of the SNP, co-leader of the Green Party Carla Denyer, deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner and Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt, take part in the BBC Election Debate hosted by BBC news presenter Mishal Husain (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)

Reform UK leader Mr Farage replied: “Well, it already is. It already is because the veterans themselves are speaking out saying he’s let the country down.

The Prime Minister apologised for his decision to leave France before a major international ceremony to mark the anniversary of the Allied landings but urged people not to politicise the event.

He admitted that “on reflection” he should have stayed for the event where world leaders including US President Joe Biden marked the sacrifice made by troops landing on the Normandy beaches in 1944.

Ms Mordaunt, who has represented Portsmouth North since 2010 and is standing for re-election, is one of the prominent figures who are projected to lose their seats at the next election.

SNP Westminster leader 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.”

 (Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)
(Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)

Elsewhere, Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner clashed with Ms Mordaunt after she continued to repeat a claim made by the Prime Minister that Labour would raise taxes by £2,000.

The figure has been criticised, with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer accusing Mr Sunak of lying about how the sum was calculated.

Ms Mordaunt told the audience: “Angela Rayner’s party – Keir Starmer confirmed this earlier this week – they are going to put up your taxes by £2000 per working household.”

Ms Rayner replied “that is a lie”, adding that the Government has raised taxes to a “record level”.

The pair then began to shout over each other before BBC presenter Mishal Hussain cut them off.

“That was terribly dignified wasn’t it”, Green Party co-leader Carla Denyer then said.

Earlier, the pair clashed over NHS waiting lists which led to Ms Rayner receiving applause after she claimed former prime minister Liz Truss “crashed” the economy.

On reducing healthcare waiting lists, Ms Mordaunt said: “There are many things we need to do but there are two really important things.

“We have to keep the budget strong. We need a strong economy.”

Angela Rayner and Penny Mordaunt engaged in heated exchanges (Jeff Overs/PA) (PA Wire)
Angela Rayner and Penny Mordaunt engaged in heated exchanges (Jeff Overs/PA) (PA Wire)

She continued: “Labour’s plans to tax your future pension, senior nurses and doctors, is going to get healthcare professionals to leave the service. That is going to lead to more waiting lists.”

Ms Rayner responded: “Penny, that’s rubbish and you’ve just said we need a strong economy – you backed Liz Truss and crashed our economy.”

The studio audience applauded as Ms Rayner added: “You made people like me redundant when we were in the homecare service.”

Taking a question about immigration during the seven-way BBC election debate, Mr Flynn said he wanted to offer the panel some "home truths".

"Migration is absolutely essential to our public services, it's absolutely essential to our businesses," he said.

"In Scotland, we have a declining working-age population despite a net number of people moving from the rest of the UK to Scotland.

"We need migrants, and this race to the bottom on migration driven by Nigel Farage, followed by the Conservative Party and hotly chased by the Labour Party, does not serve Scotland's interests, and it does not serve your interests either, so rise up against it."

To applause, Mr Flynn said voters had been "led down the garden path by the right wing in British politics for far too long. We need to stand against it, we need to promote our economy, promote our public services, and do so by promoting migration".

Reform UK leader and Clacton candidate Nigel Farage said he wanted to inject some "logic" into the discussion, to which Mr Flynn replied: "That would be a novelty for you."

Mr Farage claimed "most of those that come in are actually dependents", adding: "This ought to be the immigration election, because whether we talk about housing, whether we talk about the fact that rents are up between 20 and 30% in most of the country in the last four years, whether we talk about the roads, whether we talk about infrastructure, we are living through a population crisis."