Cameron son’s death unlikely to soften the relationship with Brown

If their past relationship is anything to go by, the apparently sudden death of David Cameron’s severely disabled son Ivan is unlikely to forge much a bond between him and Gordon Brown, who so tragically lost his premature first born Jennifer nearly seven years ago. Apart from rare photocalls when his son John was born in 2003 and Fraser in 2006, Brown has made a virtue of shielding his family from publicity, even unfavourably contrasting his stance with Cameron’s. If anything, the fact that they both had disabled sons, (Fraser has cystic fibrosis) seemed to accentuate their temperamental differences. From the Daily Mail:

In September, he (Cameron) rejected Gordon Brown’s charge that he used his disabled son as a ‘prop’.

He told the Daily Mail: ‘Some people criticise me for talking about Ivan, but he is an important part of my life. My view is that this whole thing of children and wives –
do what you feel comfortable with and let people judge you.’

Update. In the Commons at noon, the words spoken were appropriate and full of feeling. PMQs were cancelled and statements of condolences were expressed before the Commons adjourned to 12.30. First came what has become the usual condolences for the week’s tally of soldiers killed in the past week, two in Afghanistan, one in Iraq. Then the Prime Minister spoke of Ivan Cameron..
“I know that in his all too brief life, Ivan brought joy to those around him. I know also that for all the days of his life, he was surrounded by his family’s love. Every child is precious and irreplaceable and the death of a child is an unbearable sorrow no parent should ever have to endure. Politics can sometimes divide us but there is a common human bond that unites in sympathy and compassion in times of trial and support for each other in times of grief. Sarah and I have sent our condolences to David and Samantha. I know that in the whole country, our thoughts and prayers are with David and Sarah and their whole family today.”

For the Conservatives, William Hague said that David Cameron deeply appreciated the suspension of the normal Prime Minister’s Questions as a mark of respect to his son.
“As much as anyone, the Prime Minister will appreciate the dimensions of this loss. Ivan’s six years were no easy ones. His parents lived with the knowledge that he could die young, but that has made their loss no less heartbreaking. David wanted me to say how grateful he and Samantha are to so many NHS workers who did their utmost for their son this morning but who helped him every day from the moment he was born… As David has said before, for him and Samantha, he will always be their beautiful boy”.

And the political legacy of this personal tragedy? Without any sense of cynicism whatever, it will be brief and awkward. There will probably be a partial truce in the bitterest exchanges over dealing with the recession, but inevitably, this will subside after the funeral. I would guess Gordon Brown will appreciate the break, although David Cameron will probably be the beneficiary in the polls. Whatever happens politics continue, even if sub rosa for a short time. Both Brown and Cameron will be keenly watched for signs of any softening in their mutual antagonism. Brown in particular, for although he feels deeply, he expresses himself far more awkwardly than the more easily gracious Cameron. I would expect him to be on his mettle in the coming weeks.

  • moggy

    Disregarding the politics, I would like to extend my sympathy to the Camerons. Nothing would compensate for the death of a child. This is the second death involving epilepsy that I’ve heard about within the last three weeks.

    God be merciful to them.

  • fair_deal

    BW

    THIS IS PLAYING THE MAN I DON’T CARE AND WILL HAPPILY TAKE A RED CARD

    FFS can you not display the most basic level of human decency? Within hours of it occuring to use the early and tragic death of Ivan Cameron for some banal political analysis is vile.

  • ABC

    FD

    I agree wholeheartedly. Disgusting.

  • moggy

    I would like to add my voice to the others but didn’t like to say as topics seem to be an emotive issue on this blog…

    It is insensitive.

  • William

    I was speaking to my clergyman yesterday and he told me that in his patoral life in the Church, he has buried over 20 persons; a number were natural deaths, six were terrorist murders, two were suicides but the last service he conducted was the hardest of the lot for him, as the deceased was a 6-year old boy. He told me that for the first time he broke down whilst conducting the funeral service. The loss of a young child is so distressing for the parents, family and friends and to David Cameron and his wife I offer my sincere sympathies.

  • Couldn’t agree more with Fair Deal.

  • The Spectator

    FD, Chekov

    I’m afraid I can’t agree; your reaction seems, well, a trifle knee jerk to say the least.

    To ignore the sad death entirely would have been banal. To have simply set up a condolences page for people who have absolutely no personal relationship with the family to express sympathies that almost certainly will never be heard or read by those bereaved would be pointless, and frankly not a little pompous. Grief and public ‘sympathy’ as a display of your own piousness, rather than genuine empathy or concern.

    And I say that with some experience in the emotions that family are now feeling.

    You want to express sympathy to Mr and Mrs Cameron? Do it so they can hear you; contact the party or the constituency office. Send flowers, or a charitable donation in lieu. But enough of the cant.

    AS for Mr Walkers comments; two figures in the public eye, vying for the highest office in the land, opponents with an ill disguised and fierce dislike for each other, rather unusually both now share the twin heartbreaks of serious childhood illness, and childhood bereavement.

    Both have had to nurse children with serious time and soul consuming diseases. Soon both will have had the awful task of burying their own child. It is a noteworthy symmetry if nothing else. And it is noteworthy that the intensity of the mutual distain appears to be able to survive even these awful bonds that they might otherwise share. They will have walked a mile, as it were, in the shoes of the other. To maintain their antipathy in that light would be instructive.

  • fair_deal

    A spectator

    There are times when politics is secondary.

    “To ignore the sad death entirely would have been banal.”

    Never asked for it to be ignored.

    “Grief and public ‘sympathy’ as a display of your own piousness, rather than genuine empathy or concern”

    Seeking some basic decency and modicum of respect for grief is not a claim for piousness.

  • “To ignore the sad death entirely would have been banal.”

    Indeed. Contrast this response to a respectful, thoughtful piece by Nick Robinson.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/nickrobinson/2009/02/ivans_death.html

  • Mick Fealty

    It’s not playing the man FD. Fair comment I’d say.
    This from Robinson’s blog covers it for me:

    “Today I have no doubt that politics will be suspended, not just because it is the right thing to do, but because Gordon Brown I suspect will be reliving the moment his first child Jennifer died. It is a tragic bond that connects the prime minister and the man who would be prime minister, who are different in so many other ways.”

    A timely break from the pretty nasty political banalities that Brian recounts above.

  • Mick Fealty

    Brown has cancelled PMQs today…

  • The Spectator

    FD

    “There are times when politics is secondary.”

    Secondary and irrelevant are not synonyms. Some of us walk and chew gum on a regular basis.

    Seeking some basic decency and modicum of respect for grief is not a claim for piousness.

    Whose grief are you seeking to respect? The Camerons? In this their moment of agony, are they likely to be scouring Northern Ireland political blogs in case some unknown blogger somewhere is not “at one” with their pain? I repeat, it’s pompous, pointless and banal.

    There is nothing decent about censorship, nothing respectful about enforcing a vow of omerta. No one is forcing you to join in the conversation. No one is under an obligation to agree with, or act in accordance with your ideas of respect or propriety.

    And of course, you are entitled to challenge Brian’s argument.

    Just as I am entitled to challenge yours.

    This is a niche blog site, which encourages civilised political discussions, frankly, among other things, over the graves of 3500 dead Ulster folk. There is every chance that their relatives have read this site, and found their pain ignored, trivialised or even sneered at, because their loved ones wore the uniform of the British State, or the beret of a paramilitary group, and frankly FD, you’d consider that fair game (at least in the latter case).

    Brian made a sensible connection between the agonies of David and Gordon, but noted that while they will share in the personal, their personalities and beliefs will not likely let it overcome the political.

    No one was insulted. No-one’s parenthood, parental love or parental skills were ridiculed or even examined, or their politics attacked. It was a really rather bland observation of the big political beasts, and as I said, FD, you’ve gone not a little knee jerk.

    I note the BBC have ‘transitioned’ from this ‘private grief’ to a spot of reportage on early onset epilepsy. The Major public broadcaster is now detailing in what must be agonising detail exactly how and why Ivan died. Disrespectful?

    More genrally, a pattern has arisen recently of Slugger guest bloggers attacking other guest bloggers publically for daring to write certain stories at all. I doubt I’m alone in being just a little sick and bored of being lectured, even indirectly, on the morality of the public discourse by the likes of you in this case, or Turgon in Kathleen’s, for example. Frankly you’re in no position to do it. And slugger, already beset to my mind with some quality problems, is ill served by this kind of emotional censorship.

  • corb lund

    Can’t believe you posted this. Seriously! Not only is it crass and insensitive, it’s also utterly pointless and doesn’t serve any purpose. Spectator – your defence of the post would be worthwhile if the post itself contained anything of substance. It doesn’t and therefore one can only conclude that it was written with both eyes on the post title, but no thought on the content.

  • The Spectator

    Mick

    I can see no difference at all between what Nick has done, and what Brian has done – except Nick has suggested nicer motives.

    Brian says the awful personal symmetry will likely make no political difference. Nick says “oh, yes it will”.

    “for example”

    but because Gordon Brown I suspect will be reliving the moment his first child Jennifer died. It is a tragic bond that connects the prime minister and the man who would be prime minister

    Perhaps its nicer in a touchy-feely way, it appeals to our own human sides to imagine these two giants in a special sympathy with each other, but it is of no evidential value whatsover, and it is simply the same kind of blogger speculation for which FD just damned Brian.

    For all we know, Gordan never recalls that sad chapter: it may be far too painful. (Which, for information, is how my mother dealt with similar circumstances)

    For all we know in the darkest, most hurt parts of his soul, he resents the comparison a bit because of personal reasons, because Jennifer died so, so early, or because David still, thankfully has two lovely healthy kids, whereas his only living child remains ill.

    For all we know, he feels no bond at all with the Camerons, just the normal pity and sympathy one feels for someone we know personally, but don’t like very much.

    (I sincerely doubt it, but I don’t know one way or the other, neither does Brian, neither does Nick)

    Really, the jerking knees need to be calmed around here.

  • fair_deal

    A Spectator

    “Some of us walk and chew gum on a regular basis.”

    The rest of mastered those activities as children and manage to retain them with no further practice required.

    As for who does or does not see it, basic human decency and respect should be aspired to regardless of the likelihood or otherwise of their observation.

    As regards comment of slugger threads concerning a death I have tried to keep to a simple policy of extending sympathies to the family and leave it at that.

    As for your pop psychology of my thinking and motivations in this and earlier comment it reveals more about your preconcpetions than offer any genuine insight into mine.

  • I would like to express my great sadness of this news.

    I know David and Samantha give their child as much love and good parenting as any mother and father could. My heart goes out to them. I am a parent myself. I can only imagine and hopefully will never know, what it is like to lose a child.

  • Brian Walker

    I am always amazed how people who tear lumps out of each other in other contexts, react with such feeling to death. It may be part of the ritual surrounding death in the local culture which may compensate for the alacrity with which it was so often taken. However, I don’t doubt the integrity of these particular criticisms. I also know enough of both Brown and Cameron in their family contexts to feel for their loss. Many of us have suffered similar losses, thought not in my case, thank God, as a parent. I wrote my update before I read the above critical comments. I’m sorry if people are offended but I assure you these are the thoughts that are current – right now – in the political establishment. They are held with no disrespect. This is a blog of honest comment and reporting and not a book of condolences. Nevertheless, I believe I did not strike an inappropriate note, being all too experienced at reporting death down the years. Clearly as ever, some disagree.

  • Greenflag

    No parent ever wants to to be predeceased by any of their children . Condolences to the Cameron’s is in order and politics should take a back seat:(

  • Mick Fealty

    Very moving statement from Brown in the Commons

  • The Spectator

    FD

    “The rest of mastered those activities as children and manage to retain them with no further practice required. “

    Your point is? ‘Cause it just sounds like snark, and pretty stupid snark at that. I assume you meant something more profound than nana-na-nana…

    “As for who does or does not see it, basic human decency and respect should be aspired to regardless of the likelihood or otherwise of their observation.”

    I’ll ignore the fairly obvious man playing of the first nine words, and comment only that my entire point has been that I do not accept that this form of emotional censorship is “simple human decency and respect” – to my eyes, it is cant.

    I suggest that there is a qualitative difference between publishing something you know, or suspect strongly, will hurt some grieving person, and something you know, or suspect very strongly, will not hurt. That is nothing to do with whether morality is affect by “observability” – it’s to do with basic cause and effect. Will my action cause pain, or not? Is my action justified, or not. Are the consequences justified, or not?

    For a basic comparison – Walking into a shower, stripping your clothes and singing Dancing Queen is not morally wrong (bad taste aside!)

    Walking into a primary school, stripping your clothes and singing Dancing queen is morally wrong.

    Moraility is affected by observability, not because hypocrisy is ok, but because morality includes a question of cause and effect. Your argument boils down to “all nakedness is wrong” – it doesn’t matter if its ‘observed’. and that’s just bollix.

    I will assume your failure to note that is not mendacious. I will not expect, of course, that courtesy extended to myself.

    You will understand, if not forgive, that I make you no guide to morality, public or otherwise. Don’t take it too personally, I extend that rule to everybody here.

    So what wrong has Brian actually done?

    Noted a perfectly public spat held in the media over privacy of one’s family?

    Noted the mutual dislike between the big beasts?

    Noted that these two men now share a series of horrific experiences that may either ease, or exacerbate, that intense dislike?

    What has Brian done wrong to justify such an awful jerking of knees? The same question goes to Mick, by the way.

    “As regards comment of slugger threads concerning a death I have tried to keep to a simple policy of extending sympathies to the family and leave it at that.”

    Good for you. Personally I think that such token and often futile gestures are often fairly unctious, especially on this site, but I don’t expect you to share that view, and I don’t expect or call out for you to abide by mine.

    Extend Brian the same courtesy. In short, learn some bloody tolerence.

    “As for your pop psychology of my thinking and motivations in this and earlier comment it reveals more about your preconcpetions than offer any genuine insight into mine. ”

    I’m tempted, oh wise one, to ask what it ‘reveals’ about me and my preconceptions, but I honestly don’t care what you think about me; it couldn’t be less relevant or important. Fire away if you want. I’ll read, laugh, ignore. Others can do as they like.

    Tolerence. Wonderful thing.

    You began this little sideshow, if I might be so bold, with a description that a fellow blogger was ‘vile’. Are you really so soft centered that my far less personal criticism has started you on, to be honest, a hissy fit? Really, FD?

    I repeat, for emphasis:-

    ” And of course, you are entitled to challenge Brian’s argument.

    Just as I am entitled to challenge yours. ”

    Goose, gander, and all that.

    Don’t like it? Stay out of the public space, then.

    Mick

    Anything further to add?

  • Mick Fealty

    No. Except that people have the perfect right to say what they think. In this case, Brian and his critics on this thread.

  • DC

    Can someone just red card fair deal and Chekov?

    You seem to take the brunt of quite a lot of snidey remarks on here Brian.

  • fair_deal

    Spectator

    “Your point is? ‘Cause it just sounds like snark”

    Sorry who introduced that particular comparison of walking and chewing gum into the conversation?

    “I do not accept that this form of emotional censorship is “simple human decency and respect” – to my eyes, it is cant.”

    Then we disagree on the definition of decency and respect.

    “Your argument boils down to “all nakedness is wrong”

    Sorry it doesn’t that is your reductionism. There is a time and place for most things in this world.

    “Tolerence. Wonderful thing.”

    Indeed tolerance is a worthy notion as are common decency, understanding and respect neither should they be presented as either/or choices. I also reject the notion that compassion should be restricted to “someone we know personally” (and no this is not a call for public hysteria).

    “Stay out of the public space, then.”

    So a defence of blogging on any topic and a call for tolerance ends with a suggestion to stay out?

  • The Spectator

    Mick

    No. Except that people have the perfect right to say what they think. In this case, Brian and his critics on this thread.

    Well, since I am neither Brian, nor his critic, am I to take it I am excluded from such freedoms?

    FD

    Sorry who introduced that particular comparison of walking and chewing gum into the conversation?

    I did, of course. To make a perfectly valid point. That it is possible to be both respectful, and mindful of ‘secondary’ political issues at the same time.

    What was your point, beyond snark?

    Then we disagree on the definition of decency and respect.

    No, we disagree on what constitutes decency and respect. and since I don’t accept you as a moral guide, I’m quite happy to so disagree. And unlike you in respect of poor Brian, I don’t try to silence you on the basis of that disagreement, despite the fact that I am, I would suggest, at least as contemptuous of your intolerence on this issue as you are of his ‘lack’ of decency.

    There is a time and place for most things in this world.

    Indeed. And a ‘far away’ niche political blog is not the place for knee jerk censorship.

    I also reject the notion that compassion should be restricted to “someone we know personally” (and no this is not a call for public hysteria).

    Compassion for a stranger who does not know of our existance does not require a vow of omerta. That’s censorship. And it’s cant.

    So a defence of blogging on any topic and a call for tolerance ends with a suggestion to stay out?

    Indeed. For your own happiness and peace of mind. Also known as “if you don’t like the smell, get out of the shithouse” rule.

    I don’t care if you go or not. Honestly, don’t give tuppence. I don’t find your blogs offensive. Neither do I find them terribly useful. You pays your money…

    But if you are going to get this upset, and frankly snarky, at being challenged – well, you’ve a lot of upset ahead of you. Because I’m going to keep challenging cant when I see it.

  • fair_deal

    Spectator

    “What was your point”

    To show the limitations of the comparison – an ability to do something does not bring with it an obligation to do so at every opportunity.

    “I don’t accept you as a moral guide”
    “is not the place for knee jerk censorship.”

    No knees have been going anywhere. Take a wander around the other political blogs of the various hues and see how many have used the news as a springboard for political analysis. There is a difference between self-control and censorship.

    “does not require a vow of omerta.”

    Neither must it be a command to comment.

    “But if you are going to get this upset, and frankly snarky, at being challenged – well, you’ve a lot of upset ahead of you. ”

    Again an ability to analyse my state of mind evades you.

  • The Spectator

    “To show the limitations of the comparison – an ability to do something does not bring with it an obligation to do so at every opportunity. “

    “Neither must it be a command to comment.

    Straw man. I don’t think Brian considered it for one second an obligation. He just didn’t accept that it was off-limits.

    So, a mangled attempt to apply the wrong analogy to an argument nobody made. Really, FD, do you even know what you are arguing any more?

    Take a wander around the other political blogs of the various hues and see how many have used the news as a springboard for political analysis.

    Well, how about this for starters? Or this? Or this? Or this?

    Come on, FD, keep up, for goodness sake!

  • All of which manage more tact and sensitivity than BW can muster. There’s not even a glancing acknowledgment in this piece that the death is tragic or regrettable. Straight in with the poorly written, poorly expressed opinion.

  • The Spectator

    Chekov

    Is it not more true to say that it is simply expressing a view you don’t want to read at present? To my view there was little wrong with the writing per se – grammatically fine, thematically consistent – neither bad writing nor poor expression. It just didn’t express the emotion FD and you wanted it to.

    For the record, the death is of course regrettable. It’s much more than that. It’s awful and terribly, terribly sad. It isn’t, however, tragic in any real sense. Tragic is not a synonym for ‘very sad’.

    I’d point out that around 3 people die from Epileptic related illnesses in the UK every day. Unheralded, and unmourned on this site. Some come from here. Still unherelded. Still unmourned.

    Apparently proper NHS funding of specialist care could reduce that by between 40-60% – now that’s tragic.

    As for FD’s response – FD’s response was a classic ‘groupthink’ moment – attempting to set the moral tone for what is acceptable in this place at this time by reference to only his own feelings as judge. Well, to hell with that!

    So should Brian be described as ‘vile’ because he disagrees with you? ‘Vile’?

    And since you agreed with FD at the time, is the word ‘vile’ not somewhat hyperbolic? Indeed, a classic ‘knee jerk’.

    Here’s the thing – Fair Deal could have started a standard ‘condolences’ blog. I hate the bloody things, I find them generally false, pompous and more about being seen to do the right thing, than actually doing it. They often don’t make the bereaved, who is entirely ignorant of the blog, feel any better, only the blogger – on occasions it’s frankly self-therapy.

    But if FD had actually published that blog, I would have kept all that to myself, and accepted that he considered it a proper response. Because I don’t have the sheer arrogance to believe that the commons should be run according to my whim.

    It is hard to escape the conclusion that FD does think that. And when taken in connection with Turgon’s attacks on Kathleeen recently, a fairly unedifying pattern is emerging. I think it’s worth fighting that, so I will.

  • fair_deal

    Spectator

    “…considered it for one second an obligation. He just didn’t accept that it was off-limits.”

    Am I correct to interpret this statement as meaning:
    It was a matter of choice and thus personal judgement?
    If so it was an bad choice and misjudgement.

    “Come on, FD, keep up”

    I have. Check out iaindale, spectator coffee house, bob piper, cranmer, 3000 versts, dizzythinks, the devil’s kitchen, libdem voice, liberal bureaucracy, the bright stuff, nadine dorries, liberal conspiracy, NHS blog doctor, politcalbetting.com, threelinewhip,tomharris mp blog, labourlist, scottish unionist, linguanant, dylan jones evans, kevin maguire etc. Condolences and that politics can wait abounds. This was recognised in Westminster with PMQ suspended. In one of your own examples Guido rolled back from his previous objection accepting he had misjudged the mood.

  • Bigger Picture

    This is all crass nonsense. A tragic event has occured and all that can be done on here is argue over the language used to report the event?

  • Comrade Stalin

    I agree with FD. I find it a heartless and rather depressing when a death occurs in this way to see people immediately step in with the political analysis.

  • willis

    I am not going to crit anyone on this thread. I just want to add my heartfelt condolences to a family who have suffered the loss of a dearly loved child.

  • frustrated democrat

    BW is wrong in his timing; just sometimes political comments should be set aside out of respect as they did in the Commons. If he didn’t want to offer condolences free of political comment he should have keep quiet at this stage.

    Condolences to the Cameron family.