Brown's condolence was from the heart

BECAUSE my family has been spared the heartache of having to raise profoundly handicapped children, I have often wondered how I would have coped if a child of mine had been born with epilepsy, spina bifida, cerebral palsy or any other form of abnormality.

Graham Dines

BECAUSE my family has been spared the heartache of having to raise profoundly handicapped children, I have often wondered how I would have coped if a child of mine had been born with epilepsy, spina bifida, cerebral palsy or any other form of abnormality.

The shock of finding out that he or she is so ill that survival beyond teenage years is unlikely to happen and that in the years ahead the child will need constant care and will never be able to communicate with you, let alone read or write, is enough to drain the spirits of even the most hardened of couples.

I would like to think that I would be able to lavish love on the child and cherish it, just as the Camerons were devoted to young Ivan.

The distress is even more difficult when it is a first born child - will subsequent children be equally affected and if there is a chance, do we take the risk?

For a family in the public eye, the tragedy of a youngster's illness and death becomes even more traumatic because it is difficult to control intrusion into private grief. Outwardly, David and Samantha Cameron are strong enough to cope with this, but we'll never know how long they'll yearn for young Ivan and how often he will dominate their inner thoughts.

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When Gordon and Sarah Brown lost their ten-day old daughter Jennifer Jane, the agony will have been intense, especially as they were living next door to the Blairs with their happy and healthy offspring.

It was in January 2002 that Jennifer Jane died in Edinburgh Royal Infirmary after suffering a brain hemorrhage. For Mr Brown who married late in life and probably doubted he would ever become a father, it was a devastating blow.

The couple has since had two boys, John aged five, and Fraser who is now two. But Fraser was diagnosed soon after his birth in July 2006 as suffering from cystic fibrosis, which at the very least will affect his quality of life.

The Browns' tragedy explains how he was able, in a few short sentences, to empathise with the Camerons in the remarkable show of support for the couple in the Commons.

Abandoning Commons business for the death of a non-parliamentarian is about as great an act of compassion that MPs can show. The last time Prime Minister's Questions was cancelled was following the death of Labour leader John Smith.

Gordon Brown looked positively crest fallen as he paid his tribute. He made constant references to David and Samantha - non-parliamentary language of course but it was a demonstration of just how much he sympathised with the leader of the opposition and his wife.

Mr Brown is unlikely to be friends with any Tory MPs. Cross-party friendships are common at Westminster, but you won't find the dour and often cold Brown downing a wee dram or two with a Conservative in the bars on the parliamentary estate.

Nevertheless, his remarks were sincere and genuine, from one human being to another no matter what differences divide them.

William Hague, Mr Cameron's deputy, remarked in the Commons that the Prime Minister would understand the “dimensions of the loss” experienced by the Camerons as much as anyone in the House.

When Mr Cameron returns to the Commons, he will have to resume normal business. Life goes on.

He can't shelter from the political name calling that goes on in the Commons. No doubt, he'll be treated with kid gloves at first, but he knows that his job is to oppose Her Majesty's government and in doing so, will provoke anger and unpleasantness from Labour MPs.

That's the nature of our democracy. The tragedy of Ivan Cameron brought a civilising presence to the Commons and it was surely all the better for it.


VERA Lynn hijacked - no, not be terrorists on a transatlantic flight but by the British National Party.

Some of Dame Vera's evocative wartime songs have been put on to a CD and are being used by the far-right group to raise funds for its European Parliament elections campaign, which it has dubbed the Battle for Britain.

Not surprisingly, this abuse of her intellectual property rights is being challenged by the “forces sweetheart” and she is being backed by Labour members of the European Parliament.

Glenis Willmott, Labour's leader in Brussels, said: “It is shocking that the BNP can just go ahead and make profits out of such iconic songs like The White Cliffs of Dover without the agreement of the artist.

“Dame Vera is right to seek action against the BNP and we will do our best to support her.”


THE Government has expressed concerns over the EU's definition of recreational anglers, even though Brussels has dismissed reports that it would impose quotas on them. The proposal, which surfaced late last year, would have meant tourists and anglers could have been stopped from fishing from beaches and piers.

For the Tories, Richard Benyon said more than 1.1 million British anglers welcomed the EU's “rowback” on plans to include the recreational catch in national quotas. Branding the proposal “ludicrous”, he said recreational sea anglers had “virtually no impact”' on the marine environment.

Junior environment minister Huw Irranca-Davies said the Government was "actively engaged' with the European Commission. “We do share those concerns over the need to adequately define what is meant by recreational angling because what might be applied in one member nation might not be the same as what affects us here.”