British PM's father dies on holiday in France

8th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

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

The prime minister rushed from London to the bedside of his 77-year-old father Ian, who was being treated in hospital in the Mediterranean port of Toulon after he was taken ill.

"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."

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 arrived later at French President Nicolas Sarkozy's official seaside retreat on the Mediterranean coast, Fort de Bregancon. Cameron made no statement to waiting reporters.

A French official connected to the organisation of the prime minister's stay told AFP that the premier was expected to stay the night.

Cameron's office said Sarkozy had intervened to send a helicopter to carry the prime minister to the hospital when he first arrived in France with his brother Alex and sister Clare.

Cameron'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, 43, 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 following an early morning phone call from his mother, Mary.

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's political allies and opponents in Britain sent their condolences.

"Despite the sadness of today, I am very glad that David's father lived to see him become Prime Minister and that David was able to be at his father's side at the end," said Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who stood in for the parliamentary questions session.

David Miliband, a contender for the leadership of the Labour party which lost power in the May election, said he was "very sorry to hear this sad news. My thoughts are with David and his family."

Acting Labour leader Harriet Harman and former prime minister Gordon Brown also sent their condolences to the premier.

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."

The prime minister's biographer, James Hanning, said that family was "hugely important" to the premier.

"They are a very strong family but they have been through it," he told the BBC.

Ian Cameron made a rare public appearance to support his son in April, during Britain's general election campaign.

© 2010 AFP

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