Britain's prime minister, the family man

24th August 2010, Comments 0 comments

The excitement on David Cameron's face as he announced the birth of his fourth child Tuesday was testament to the key role family plays in the life of Britain's youthful prime minister.

The 43-year-old, whose wife Samantha gave birth to a baby girl while they were on holiday in Cornwall, southwest England, has been determined to make time for his children since taking office in May, including leaving work early.

In contrast to his fiercely private predecessor Gordon Brown, Cameron has also been happy to let the public into his life, opening up his home to the TV cameras and speaking publicly about the death of his son last year.

Ivan, who was severely disabled with cerebral palsy and epilepsy, was only six when he died and Cameron said the strain of losing his "wonderfully special and beautiful boy" almost prompted him to give up politics.

At the same time, Cameron has said that Ivan's condition drove his desire to protect the state-run National Health Service (NHS) which treated the boy, a key plank of his efforts to reform the centre-right Conservative party which he leads.

Announcing Samantha's latest pregnancy earlier this year, a spokesman for the couple said they were "completely thrilled" to have another sibling for their children Nancy, six, and Arthur, four.

Cameron had previously expressed his desire for another baby, and since moving into the official Downing Street residence he has taken his children to school and reportedly leaves work early so he can spend time with his family.

He had also said he would take advantage of the paternity leave offered to new fathers, although he still has several days left before he is due to go back to work at the end of his holiday in Cornwall.

Samantha announced shortly after the general election in May that swept her husband to power that she would be giving up her full-time job as creative director for an upmarket stationery firm.

"This is a personal decision made when I discovered I was pregnant, and one that I have been considering for some time during what has been an understandably difficult year," she said at the time.

She now works part-time for the firm as a consultant, and said previously: "I look forward to my changed role and balancing it with my new day-to-day life as well as being able to spend more time with my children."

Both the Camerons come from wealthy backgrounds but have sought to play this down, with the prime minister recently describing himself as "middle-class", amid criticism he is too privileged to understand ordinary people.

Samantha has sought to distance herself from her aristocratic roots since she was young, going to art school and hanging out with musicians and even getting a small tattoo of a dolphin on her right ankle.

She was still a teenager when she was introduced to David Cameron by her best friend Clare, his younger sister, and the couple dated while she was still a student in Bristol, in the west of England.

He gave her early warning of his political ambitions but she was undeterred and they married in 1996. David Cameron became a member of parliament in 2001 and took over as Conservative leader four years later.

In a rare television interview in March, Samantha admitted her husband was "definitely not perfect", saying he made a "terrible mess" at home.

But she added: "We've been together 18 years now and we've been through some fairly tough times and I can honestly say that I don't think in all that time he's ever let me down."

© 2010 AFP

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