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What voters are saying about Sunak’s D-Day gaffe

“Can he really be that incompetent?”

Rishi Sunak’s decision to leave D-Day commemorations early to take part in an ITV election interview has left voters furious and in disbelief, focus group analysis has found.

Think tank Demos and i are collaborating on an election project called Trustwatch. It will track the views of a 32-person panel throughout the election race, focusing on how much participants trust the politicians vying for their support.

When the panel was consulted at midday on Saturday – the day after Mr Sunak apologised for the “mistake” Tory candidates fear has blown their election chances – voters said they were still in a state of shock about the decision.

One panel member, who described themselves as a non-voter, said: “Can he really be that incompetent? It almost seems as though he wants to throw the election. The Conservative party faces a threat to its very existence. Pretty crazy really.”

One 2019 Conservative voter, who intends to vote Tory again on 4 July , said: “I thought Sunak was a joke and he should never have left France as it was a historic moment to pay respects to the war dead and veterans. Totally inexcusable.

“[It was a] massive mistake and then trying to justify it, just another notch in being untrustworthy.”

The group was also shared their views after the BBC debate on Friday night, which featured seven party represenatatives including Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner, Tory Commons leader Penny Mordaunt and Reform UK leader Nigel Farage.

Farage’s contributions to the BBC debate divided the panel.

One loyal Conservative voter who watched the debate, said: “I personally wouldn’t trust Farage – (he) went to the US recently and said US politics is more important than ours.”

While a non-voter on the panel, added: “I think Farage is the only person who is talking about one or two of [the important issues], but I think he is appealing to the lowest common denominator through fear.

“I took at look at the Reform UK website and it was disheartening to see things like ‘to succeed, we need to do Brexit properly’ prominently on the website. Then a graphic of Sir Keir Starmer called ‘Starmageddon’. So I am not filled with enthusiasm.”

One person who was switching their allegiance from the Tories to Labour was reluctant be give their full support to Ms Rayner and the party.

“It’s still very hard to trust any of them as from past experience, politicians have always over promised lead up to elections to get the votes but deliver very little once they have been elected,” they said. “I do not trust the Conservative Party at all anymore because of the fact that they have been in power for the last 14 years yet the country is still in a bad place economically.

“Brexit was a huge mistake and it was the Conservatives that were in power at the time of EU referendum elections. They, as our elected party, should have thought of the impact it would have on the country in the coming years before even putting it out to the public about an EU referendum.

“I have lost all faith in the the Conservative Party. During Covid they put social distancing rules in place yet they didn’t follow these rules.”

Another Tory voter believed Ms Mordaunt was the overall the debate: “Personally I thought that Penny Mordaunt came out on top, she fact checked and was clear and concise on her questioning and answers, but politicians are professional liars.”

However, a majority of the panel said they had not tuned into the debate at all.

One Labour voter said they were not aware it was airing, while a non-voter said: “I don’t think the format lends itself to a productive discussion. I would be more interested to see the various leaders in long form conversations focusing on their political philosophy instead of trying to outperform one another.”

Election 2024

Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer are on the campaign trail, and i‘s general election live blog is the go-to place for everything from party manifestos to candidate news and who could decide the election.

Sir Keir and other party leaders condemned Mr Sunak for departing from D-Day celebrations early, and the Prime Minister issued an apology. Meanwhile, i spoke to Jacob Rees-Mogg about the Tories’ chances at the election, as panic is setting in at Conservative HQ.

i also launched its Save Britain’s Rivers manifesto, urging parties to commit to five pledges to improve our waterways. Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey has become the first to back the campaign.

Seven representatives from the main parties battled in a general election leaders’ debate, and Katy Balls has given her verdict on who won. To catch up on the coverage, read our debate live blog.

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