British PM's father dies on holiday in France: Downing St

8th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

The father of British Prime Minister David Cameron died Wednesday after suffering a stroke while on holiday in France, Downing Street said.

"It is with deep regret we can confirm that Ian Cameron died earlier this afternoon," a statement said. "He passed away shortly after the prime minister arrived at the hospital in France where he was undergoing treatment."

David Cameron rushed from London to the bedside of his 77-year-old father, who was being treated in the Mediterranean port of Toulon on Wednesday after he was taken ill.

An AFP reporter said David Cameron and other family members were driven away from the hospital in a convoy of cars just after 5:00 pm (1500 GMT) under a French police escort.

They were expected to head to Fort de Bregancon, the official French presidential retreat, which is nearby on the southern French coast, sources said.

Downing Street said French President Nicolas Sarkozy had intervened to send a helicopter to carry David Cameron to the hospital when he first arrived in France with his brother Alex and sister Clare.

It added that he was expected to remain in France overnight.

The British premier's parents are believed to have been halfway through a two-week holiday when his father was taken ill. Ian Cameron had a stroke and also suffered heart complications, officials said.

David Cameron, who took power as head of a coalition government in May, missed the first session of Prime Minister's Questions of the new parliamentary term, instead catching a flight to France early Wednesday.

The dash to his father's bedside came just two weeks after the birth of his fourth child, Florence, and the day after he returned from paternity leave.

David Cameron's first child, Ivan, who had cerebral palsy and severe epilepsy, died in February last year, aged six.

Cameron senior was a wealthy former stockbroker who was born with a condition that left his legs severely deformed from the knees downwards.

In recent years, his lower legs were amputated and he used an electric wheelchair to get around. He was also blind in one eye.

David Cameron has hailed his father as an inspirational figure for dealing with his health problems with great courage and optimism.

In a television interview before the May general election, the Conservative leader said: "My father is a huge hero figure for me.

"He's an amazingly brave man because he was born with no heels -- quite a disability. But the glass with him was half-full, normally with something alcoholic. I think I got my sense of optimism from him."

Ian Cameron made a rare public appearance to support his son in April, during Britain's general election campaign. He was also a regular at horse races, which he loved to attend.

© 2010 AFP

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