David Cameron may be remembered for losing Brexit, but I can't forget the tragedy his family had to endure
David and Samantha Cameron’s six-year-old son Ivan died in 2009 from a rare neurological disorder and the new Foreign Secretary described it then as something that ‘nothing could prepare him for'
Although all the headlines are about David Cameron’s surprise return as Foreign Secretary, the first thing that I always think of aside from the former Prime Minister calling for a referendum and losing Brexit, is the family tragedy that he and wife Samantha Cameron endured and must continue to endure.
In 2009, David and Samantha Cameron lost their first-born son Ivan (who was six at the time) to a rare neurological disorder, Ohtahara syndrome. In an interview with The Sunday Times, David Cameron wrote “Nothing, absolutely nothing, can prepare you for the reality of losing your darling boy this way”.
Samantha Cameron also said “Ivan dying is such a massive thing that everything else is irrelevant". She went on to say “I think it changed Dave’s politics. It made him understanding, though he couldn’t be too subjective".
As a parent myself, without any doubt, there could be nothing more unfathomable and appalling than losing a child, whatever their age. It without question puts everything into perspective and whatever your political views, it is impossible not to feel enormous empathy for anyone, regardless of whether they are a politician or not, who has to go through such a tragedy.
Samantha and David’s son Ivan was their first-born, and the couple went on to have three more children, Nancy, Arthur, and Florence. In October 2023, The Telegraph reported that David Cameron “is leading a groundbreaking project with Oxford University to find 40 new life-changing therapies for rare diseases over the next 10 years, in a push that could finally see a treatment for the condition that killed Ivan.”
The article goes on to say that “Mr Cameron is hoping that the £200m Rare Disease Therapeutics Accelerator will continue the work he started as prime minister, in a project that could fundamentally change how treatments are discovered and licensed in Britain".
I, of course, know that David Cameron is not the only unfortunate parent who has had to endure the death of a child, but it is something that I am sure he can testify does not get any easier with time. Gordon Brown also revealed in a television interview with Piers Morgan that losing his baby daughter Jennifer Jane 10 days after her birth was the ‘most grief-stricken time’ of his life. He said “You think all the time of the first steps and the first words and the first time you go to school and it’s just not been there. This is the happiest time of your life and then suddenly it becomes the most grief-stricken time of your life. It was such a pendulum swing".
I, like many others, am guilty of often seeing politicians as detached from reality and ‘less human.’ Jamie Anderson, a producer, writer, and director, and the son of legendary Thunderbirds creator Gerry Anderson. once said: "Grief is just love with no place to go".
I will always have enormous empathy towards David Cameron, Gordon Brown, and anybody who has lost a child because I believe there can be no greater pain in life.