Saturday, February 28, 2009

Something Different

I'm going to try something new over the next few weeks. Pretty much every single post here is me slagging off Labour and, while this is both warranted and oddly pleasurable to do, it isn't the only thing in the world I enjoy writing about. So, for a little while at least, I'm going to post occasional threads that have nothing to do with Labour... and their bollocks.

Like a lot of people this week, I found out about Ivan Cameron passing away when I was at work. I think the news broke around 9am, by which time I had long been out of the house due to my somewhat lengthy commute. I was sitting at my desk reading an e-mail when my manager came in the room and said "David Cameron's disabled son died this morning."

"Holy shit... Ivan died!" That was my first thought - Ivan. I knew the boy's name, but I didn't know him personally, and my past exposure to David Cameron consists of twice walking past him in a Westminster corridor. And yet I knew the boy's name. I know the names of his siblings. I know what music his father likes, and what his mother does for a living. I know where the family last went on holiday and various other little bits of information like that.

I didn't know any of this because I'm some sort of weird obsessive; I knew it because, perhaps more than for any politician before him, we know what makes David Cameron tick. Some have been both concerned and appalled by the access the media have had to his family and his private life. Some have welcomed it of course, but this openness remains controversial. However, whether you agree with it or not, the fact is that it is something very different. Cameron has opened himself up, both as a politician and a human being, believing that the two are connected in the strongest sense.

This, I think, is why the public reception to Ivan's death has been so overwhelming. Let's remind ourselves that David Cameron is a politician, and politicians are generally regarded by the public as being just above a stool sample on a list of things they'd like to spend time with. I'm not saying people were ever going to be cruel; what I am saying is that the messages, letters, flowers and donations that - according to a source at Westminster - have been absolutely flowing in, are nothing short of amazing.

When Ivan died, it was a shock to anyone who has heard what Cameron has said over the last three years or so. His emphasis on families, his admiration of the NHS; all these things are part of him and his politics, and they are part of him and his politics largely because of Ivan. It was like a big part of what made David Cameron the politician he is suddenly got a massive jolt. That's not to say he'll change those priorities; all the evidence points towards him being a tough cookie, and if anything he'll more than likely come through this difficult period even more resolute about what he wants to do if elected Prime Minister. But for those of us who follow politics closely - particularly those of us who admire Cameron - and even for those who don't, this tragedy resonated in the surprisingly strong way that it did not because we knew Ivan, but because we knew what meant to his father and his family.

This mood was reflected in the House of Commons. I'm sure it would have been possible for Hague and Brown to have a few jabs at each other, but it's very clear that they really didn't want to. For PMQs to be cancelled in the way that it was was surprising - and the first instance since John Smith died in 1994 - but completely understandable in the circumstances.

David, Samantha and the rest of the Cameron family have a hard time ahead of them. I read an article in the paper by the parent of a disabled child who had died, which said the Camerons were "joining the worst club in the entire world". I'm sure that's how they feel in some respects. However, I'm also sure that they'll never forget the good times they had with Ivan, and the positive impact he had on their lives. I really do wish them the very best at this time.

That's the last I'll say on this subject. It's a difficult thing to write about, but I found myself sitting here wondering why Ivan's death was still lingering in my mind. And I realised that it wasn't simply the case that a child had died - which is a huge tragedy in itself. It was because a child died who had been a much bigger part of the public and political consciousness than most people ever knew.

1 comment:

LibertyMine said...

Very good post. Think you summed up the way a lot of people thought last week, and the way a lot of people think about David. He comes across as a thoroughly nice and decent chap. I hope he stays that way. He has my vote.