After baby joy, British PM must confront fresh tragedy

8th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

Just two weeks after joyfully announcing the birth of his fourth child, British Prime Minister David Cameron was hit by the sudden death of his "hero" father Wednesday.

Ian Cameron passed away after suffering a stroke and heart complications while on holiday in the south of France, a loss which came 18 months after Cameron's severely disabled first child, Ivan, died suddenly aged six.

Cameron has told how his father's "sense of optimism" has strongly influenced him -- a quality which will now be sorely tested, just four months after the 43-year-old took power as head of a coalition government.

The premier had looked tanned and relaxed Tuesday as he chaired a cabinet meeting on the day he returned from paternity leave following the birth of Florence Rose Endellion on August 24.

But a phone call in the early hours of Wednesday from his mother Mary led to a dash to a London airport to board a commercial flight to southern France, where his 77-year-old father had fallen seriously ill while on a break.

Accompanied by his sister and brother, Cameron dashed to the hospital in Toulon by helicopter from Nice airport, but his Downing Street office said Ian Cameron died shortly after the family arrived.

Ian Cameron was born with a condition that left his legs abnormally short and in later life they were amputated, but he forged a career as a successful stockbroker.

The prime minister has often spoken of his father as an inspiration who always made light of his disability, describing him before the general election as "a huge hero figure for me."

Growing up with his father's disability may have helped Cameron to deal with the tribulations of life caring for Ivan, who had cerebral palsy and severe epilepsy.

The prime minister admitted openly that when doctors told him and his wife Samantha of their son's disability, the news hit them "like a train", but they adapted their London home to accommodate him and gradually learned to deal with his frequent fits.

Cameron has admitted that when Ivan, a "wonderfully special and beautiful boy", died suddenly last year, he seriously considered giving up politics.

The despair etched on Cameron's face as his wife clung to him at Ivan's funeral was in sharp contrast to his evident joy as he told journalists about the surprise early arrival of his daughter in August.

Samantha gave birth midway through the Cameron family holiday in picturesque Cornwall, southwest England, and the baby was given a middle name of a village near where they were staying.

The Camerons had said in the wake of Ivan's death that they badly wanted another child to join their daughter Nancy, six, and Arthur, four.

The prime minister will take strength in his close family following the death of his father -- he has said that despite the pressures of the job, he ensures he sees his young children several evenings a week.

A gruelling few months awaits him in the political arena too, with the government set to announce deep cuts in public spending next month.

© 2010 AFP

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