© thepinknews.com/xpresschronicle.com/gbnews.com/KJNNigel Farage • Rishi Sunak • Suella Braverman PA
Rishi Sunak is scrambling to get the Tories' election campaign back on track today after the D-Day shambles and with infighting flaring over the Reform threat. The PM is visiting West Sussex, previously seen as among the party's most solid of strongholds, after an extraordinary weekend of recriminations.

Mr Sunak was accused of ducking interviews in the wake of his groveling apology for returning early from commemorations of the 80th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy to carry out an election interview. Focus groups conducted by think-tank More in Common has laid bare the impact of the episode, with doubts about Mr Sunak 'turbocharged' and the premier now seen by voters as a drag on his party.

Meanwhile, Suella Braverman has sparked a fresh meltdown by suggesting that Nigel Farage should be 'welcomed' into the party. That triggered a blunt response from moderates, with former justice secretary Robert Buckland telling the BBC: 'We're a broad church, but not an Amazon warehouse.'

Alarm is rising in Tory circles about a 'crossover' moment in the polls, where Reform support leapfrogs the party.

In other twists and turns today:
  • Mr Sunak is doing a BBC Panorama interview to be broadcast at 8pm tonight;
  • Labour is launching a childcare plan after U-turning on bringing back the lifetime allowance on pension funds;
  • The Lib Dems are launching their manifesto promising to hike taxes on the rich.
Mr Sunak spent a low-key weekend regrouping after a storm of criticism at his decision to return early from last week's 80th anniversary commemorations, for which he apologised on Friday.

Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride was forced to quash speculation Mr Sunak could resign before the election. He said the PM was 'deeply patriotic' and had taken the criticism 'very deeply, personally' but there was 'no question' of him quitting.

Mr Farage has pounced on the row, accusing Mr Sunak of being 'not patriotic'. But the Reform leader was accused of 'dog whistle politics' - code for subtly appealing to racist sentiments - after suggesting the premier does not care about 'our culture'.

Ms Braverman, who was brutally sacked by Mr Sunak in a cabinet reshuffle in November, told The Times:
'There is 'not much difference' between Mr Farage's policies and the Tories'. 'We need to, in the future, to find some way to work together because there shouldn't be big differences between us.

'I would welcome Nigel into the Conservative party. There's not much difference really between him and many of the policies that we stand for.

'We are a broad church, we should be a welcoming party and an inclusive party and if someone is supportive of the party, that's a pre-condition and they want Conservatives to get elected then they should be welcomed.'
But Sir Robert gave the idea short shrift, and Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch has previously indicated she would not serve in the party alongside Mr Farage.

Touring broadcast studios this morning, police minister Chris Philp dismissed the question as 'theoretical' - pointing out Mr Farage was running against the Tories.

Mr Farage told the BBC:
'Mr Sunak should have known in his heart, that it was right to be there. He doesn't really care about our history, he doesn't really care - frankly - about our culture.'
Challenged over the comments, he insisted he had been talking about Mr Sunak's 'class' rather than his heritage as the son of first-generation immigrants.

Mr Farage denied any racial element, saying:
'40 per cent of our contribution' in the two world wars 'came from the Commonwealth. The PM was utterly disconnected by class, by privilege, from how ordinary folk feel. He revealed that, I think spectacularly, when he left Normandy early.'
Mr Stride said he was 'very uncomfortable' at the 'ill-advised' comments, adding: 'I'm very proud we have a British Asian right at the top of our Government.'

Labour's justice spokesman Shabana Mahmood accused Mr Farage of 'dog whistle' politics:
'We can all see exactly what he is doing, he's got form, it is completely unacceptable. This is a man that has a track record of seeking to divide communities who just wants to do it with a veneer of respectability.'
Mr Sunak attended D-Day commemorations in Portsmouth and Normandy, France, last week.

But he left Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron to represent Britain at an 'international event' attended by Emmanuel Macron, Joe Biden, Volodymyr Zelensky and other world leaders.

© Getty ImagesMr Sunak • King and Queen • President of France Emmanuel Macron and Brigitte attend commemoration
The PM apologised the next day, saying he 'deeply regrets' his decision to leave early. The backlash has deepened the gloom around the Tory campaign which has so far failed to dent Labour's huge poll lead.

Former Cabinet minister Nadine Dorries suggested at the weekend the PM could even 'fall on his sword' but senior Tories dismissed this.

One said:
'In the words of Churchill, he has got to keep buggering on - there isn't any other option. He just needs to stop buggering up.'
Mr Sunak told The Mail On Sunday:
'We all make mistakes. We're all human. But I'm motivated to do what I can for this country to the best of my ability. That's what keeps me going.'
He hopes to reboot the Conservative campaign tomorrow when he is expected to unveil the party's manifesto and focus on the political divide over tax.

Mr Stride told Sky News that Mr Sunak will 'absolutely' lead the Tories into the election and denied that 'all is lost'.