Express & Star

Mark Andrews: Why Rishi's D-Day clanger will haunt him for the rest of his life, the Brexit bus, and Charlie's tax affairs leave a sour taste in the mouth

Rishi Sunak's decision to leave the D-Day commemorations early to attend a television interview will probably haunt him for the rest of his life.


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It's one thing delivering a speech in the pouring rain, or standing under an 'exit' sign. People will usually forgive a ropey performance in a live debate. Even Gordon Brown's 'bigoted woman' moment is now largely forgotten, and John Prescott punched a voter in the face and got away with it.

But this is different.

Paying tribute to those who gave their lives for the liberty we enjoy today is among the greatest honours that could be bestowed on any politician. When the Prime Minister stands in their honour, he represents not just himself, but every one of us too.

I'm sure the Prime Minister didn't mean to be disrespectful. I suspect he thought he was 'striking a balance' by attending some of the D-Day events, but still keeping his broadcasting commitments.

This, though shows a dreadful lack of judgement. Sometimes there is no balance to be struck. Some things are just so important that you have to drop everything for them.

This was one of them.

* * *

In mitigation, the Prime Minister said he had committed to the TV interview a while ago. Really. So the 80th anniversary of D-Day was sprung upon you at the last minute, was it?

* * *

After this, it seems almost trite to actually talk about the issues raised during Monday's TV debate.

But I'm going to anyway. And observe an interesting parallel between Mr Sunak's claim that a Labour government would result in an extra £2,000 per head in taxes, with the controversy about the "£350 million a week" bus slogan during the EU referendum.

It is said there was some debate inside the Vote Leave camp about the £350 million figure, which represented the gross figure the UK government paid, before rebates and EU grants were taken into consideration. Some suggested they should use the less contentious net contribution figure on the bus instead. This would still have looked like a huge amount of money, but would have been far more difficult for the Remain team to dispute.

The reason they went with £350 million was that a lengthy row about how many hundreds of millions of pounds were going to Brussels was exactly what Vote Leave wanted. They wanted the Remain camp to start quibbling about the numbers, to keep the subject in the public eye. And that's exactly what they got. I wonder if that is what the Prime Minister was hoping for again?

* * *

I've always thought BBC Breakfast presenter Charlie Stayt was one of the nice guys, so it is disappointing to read he has been issued with a bankruptcy petition by HM Revenue and Customs over alleged unpaid taxes.

He's not the BBC presenter to find himself in dispute with the taxman. Kaye Adams, Adrian Chiles and Gary Lineker – obviously – have also been embroiled in high-profile legal battles about how much of their grossly inflated pay packets should go to the Treasury.

Isn't it ironic, though, that those who make very good livings from a compulsory tax imposed on ordinary working people for watching TV, seem far less happy about paying taxes themselves?