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We need to talk about Ivan

March 12, 2012

I beg your indulgence. Resist the urge to take the understandable, but impetuous, position that a dead child should not be the subject of conversation in any context. Hear me out.

Ivan Reginald Ian was born in April 2002. He was diagnosed with Ohtahara Syndrome – a rare and debilitating combination of cerebral palsy and epilepsy. After an all-too-brief life of six years, Ivan died at St Mary’s in Paddington in 2009. Ivan was six. He was also the son of the soon-to-be Prime Minister, David Cameron.

I remember vividly the first time I felt an uncomfortable knot in my stomach about Ivan. I was thumbing through a copy of the Guardian and came across an article in which Cameron explained how his experience with Ivan had given him a passion and love for the NHS and the professionals within it. It was accompanied by this picture:

And then, a few days later, something began to gnaw at my insides, like a carrion beetle, when I saw this picture in another paper:

A few days later, in another publication this:

Then this:

Something highly unnatural about the poses, about the way Ivan is turned towards the camera, as is his father… Something about the different shots – the protagonists are wearing the same outfits, are similarly framed, but some are indoors and some outdoors. Everything had the feel of a “photo opportunity” – not a family portrait.

I tried to be open to friends who asked “would you rather they hid the child away in shame?”. But there was something interesting about both the timing and tone of this – pitched like a curiosity tent in the middle of an election circus. What about the other side in that election?

I am no fan of Gordon Brown, but credit ought to go where it is due. The man is partly blind, he and his wife lost a child only days after she was born, then had another diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. There was no denial; no attempt to hide away the facts; no shame. But there was also no feeding the media in order to boost likeability – and, heaven knows, Brown needed it. There was stoicism. There was dignity.

I tried to dismiss my extreme discomfort with the way Ivan was being used, at least in my subjective judgement. I tried to convince myself that this was my own cynicism talking; my political dislike of conservatism; my shameful, selfish awkwardness and guilt at being confronted with disability.

Unfortunately the pattern continued, even after his death. There were photographs from the funeral, which did not appear “papped”. There were pictures at assorted memorials, taken by the Camerons’ official photographer, engineered to engender sympathy or even pity. There were visits to hospices sponsored by OK! Magazine.

Last week David Cameron referred to baby Ivan during Prime Minister’s Questions again. It was the sixth or seventh time he has done so, either obliquely or directly, in response to difficult questions about the NHS or welfare or disability benefits. Occasionally Cameron is baited into it. He must rise above such occasions. Occasionally, however, the mention is defensive and entirely unprompted.

In last week’s PMQs Cameron was asked by Dame Joan Ruddock about cutting the benefits to one of her constituents – a 10-year-old girl with cerebral palsy. In his response he denied that the benefits available to disabled children were being cut (a distinct untruth with regard to new claimants as explained in this factcheck) and continued: “As someone who has actually filled out the form for disability allowance and had a child with cerebral palsy, I know how long it takes to fill in that form.”

No reference to the girl about whom the question was; no offer to look into her case; no attempt to answer the question. Only an out-of-context reference to Cameron’s dead child, offered as irrefutable proof that his reforms must be right and implied rebuke for daring to question them.

We always complain that our politicians are out of touch. What is the objection about a Prime Minister using his personal experience to help shape policy? No objection. But policy consists of words put into action. When the action is distinctly contrary to the words, it is not policy. It is hypocrisy.

He has presided over an unprecedented, concerted campaign against the NHS. So much so, that the very unit in which his child died is threatened with closure. To do this while citing his personal experiences to silence his critics, is unspeakably wicked.

To stand there, at the dispatch box, and invoke his plight as the parent of a disabled child, then minutes later announce the closure of 36 Remploy factories (not via a statement by the relevant minister, but by placing a letter in the library) is utterly cowardly.

The net result? A conversation about Ivan in which nobody dares speak up for Ivan. A muted debate, in which the interests of children like him are not fully represented in our Parliament.

I have every sympathy for David Cameron as a parent. I also have a right to demand the highest standards of him as a Prime Minister. The two concepts are not incompatible. It should not be taboo to say so.

Each time, the spectre of that poor child is raised like an invincible shield by his own father, each time his memory is drop-kicked into a political minefield – knowing that nobody will dare touch it – debate is silenced and legitimate questions about these reforms go unanswered.

It is not only inappropriate. It is distasteful and immoral.

91 Comments leave one →
  1. March 12, 2012 11:30 am

    You are right to bring it up and to question it. As you say the way he used it to deflect the genuine concern brought up by Dame Joan Ruddock regarding one of her constituents and the cuts in benefits to disabled children, which are happening, was an act of cowardice and subterfuge and he should not be allowed to get away with such tactics hoping he can hide behind that shield he should not be holding up. It is reprehensible and takes away from the memory of his son too if he feels the need to use it in this way.

    Well said.

  2. Kay Fabe permalink
    March 12, 2012 11:51 am

    None of the Tories can support their policies for the disabled or the unemployed with argument. IDS and Grayling simply call people who disagree with them names and Cameron (well, he does it too, he called Skinner a dinosaur, didn’t he?), he does worse, he raises the spectre of his dead son and hides behind it. None of them can actually justify being there or what they’re doing – why are we putting up with this?

  3. March 12, 2012 12:04 pm

    Perfectly put.

  4. March 12, 2012 12:17 pm

    You are, as ever, absolutely spot on Alex. I’ve alway been a bit squeamish about the way in which Cameron uses Ivan’s life and death as ‘local colour’ and he banks on us not criticising him for it for fear of appearing uncaring. Among my many ramblings is a blog post in which I touched on a similar theme:

    “I’ve read a lot of people who expected that David Cameron, as the parent of a disabled child, would be sympathetic to (or at least appreciate) the difficulties that this can present to family life, and are dismayed that he appears sanguine about the cuts to disability benefits and local authority support. Now, I’m not callous enough to deny him the grief he felt when they lost their son simply because I disagree profoundly with his politics and world-view; no amount of wealth can compensate for the myriad ways in which living with (and losing) a disabled child affects you. To those expecting empathy, though, consider this. He has never been in a position of having to choose a course of action for economic reasons.”

    And that’s the point, really. All he has in common with those of us living with a disabled child is that he once had one, too. He has never had to make a decision on his care which was tempered by economic need and has no conception of the strains that puts on families. Which is why he’s happy to arbitrarily halve the disability element of child tax credits – such small amounts are meaningless to him.

    He has used Ivan every bit as much as those huskies and his bicycle to persuade us that he is a genuine, likeable guy when he is nothing of the sort. I don’t believe there is an image of him (certainly not with his family) which is not heavily managed. There are no ‘unguarded’ moments – not least because the Murdoch press pack will not have been on his case!

  5. Jill Pay permalink
    March 12, 2012 1:05 pm

    Alex, as ever, you raise a very valid point with sensitivity and intelligence. It has really made me think about how Cameron uses Ivan as a “shield” to protect him from any perceived criticism. Actually most people are just asking for clarity and reasoning from the government in their actions – he obviously knows that what he is doing goes too far and therefore resorts to using Ivan in this way. It really is beyond immoral.

  6. ellemm permalink
    March 12, 2012 1:06 pm

    how sad . how low .d c. not worth a capital/ is lower than snake sh.t with his dealings with the NHS and as soon as his left over glegg or what his name is i think in scotland its a blood sucking clegg not sure of my spelling but then i never eat an eton mess, sorry hash of political crap

  7. March 12, 2012 1:34 pm

    Well said. It is repellant that you have had to but it is palpable that Cameron’s personal circumstances had a direct bearing on the electorate’s trust in the Tories vis a vis the NHS. A trust that was abused.

  8. March 12, 2012 1:35 pm

    For reference, Dame Joan’s question at PMQs on 7th March 2012 is here on YouTube:

  9. Anthony Shedden permalink
    March 12, 2012 2:10 pm

    Perceptive and well said. Cameron has brought this into the public sphere. It should be explored in relation to his very Tory, very privileged background, and his inablity to understand the NHS and the place of disability benefits in civilised society

  10. Nicky permalink
    March 12, 2012 2:16 pm

    Alex this is a well judged, compassionately written blog on a really difficult issue.
    As a carer I know that many people with disabled children believed that Cameron would understand the difficulties disabled people face and how undervalued carers are.
    Not me as I couldn’t ever believe a Tory would have empathy.
    Cameron is bringing the biggest assault on the welfare state and crucial services since their creation. A millionaire to his fingertips he hasn’t a clue what it means to live at the edges of society, hate crime against disabled people since the coalition came to power has risen by 75% the greatest achievement of the big society has been to push the most vulnerable people further down the equality ladder.

  11. Fiona permalink
    March 12, 2012 2:36 pm

    Felt a bit uneasy at first reading this but written perfectly and sensitively I’ve thought this for the last while specifically on hugely important issues his little boy is mentioned every time and right away puts everyone in the position that they feel unable to go further with questions or answers for fear of being disrespectful in a public arena he needs to stop this

  12. Sean permalink
    March 12, 2012 2:37 pm

    Very well put Alex and I for one couldn’t agree more

  13. Vivien Bartlett permalink
    March 12, 2012 2:47 pm

    Courageous and thoughtful. i hope your blog makes a difference.

  14. Nell Bridges permalink
    March 12, 2012 3:53 pm

    Alex, you have addressed a really difficult subject here with great moral courage and sensitivity. Writing about others’ lives is always an ethical minefield, writing about such a politically and personally delicate aspect of another’s life is much more so. I understand that you have grappled long and hard with the dilemmas involved and have rewritten this piece many times. This commitment to ethical mindfulness in your writing is evident in the resulting article. It is powerful in its honesty and in its truth.
    Like you, I don’t wish to bring further pain to the Cameron family through references to the loss of their beautiful disabled child. However, many many other disabled people and their families are suffering dreadfully as a consequence of David Cameron’s leadership choices regarding disability support and welfare. Some of those choices are directly related to his personal and family experiences, and he has made these experiences public. It would be easy to let ourselves be silenced by that. It would also be easy to respond in a crass manner. You have found a course that avoids both of these. I hope my response here does likewise and does justice to your article, and to the lives of all impacted by these events and issues.

    Best wishes, Nell

  15. Sickened by Cameron's actions permalink
    March 12, 2012 3:54 pm

    Excellent piece of writing. This blog post perfectly articulates how sickened I feel about Cameron’s exploitation of his son’s disability for political reasons.

    Several of my relatives were duped into voting for Cameron because of his weasel words around protecting the NHS and people with disabilities. They feel sickened now every time he plays the ‘Ivan card’ when questioned over his heinous policies on disability issues.

    It’s worth remembering that as a multi-millionaire, Cameron was able to hire full-time carers and a nanny to look after his children – a luxury that most carers of children with disabilities could only dream of. Perhaps that’s why Cameron is so out of touch.

    I volunteered with people with learning disabilities for a number of years and I’m horrified by what this Tory government (Cameron, IDS, Miller and Grayling) are doing to people with disabilities. I’m particularly saddened by the government’s anti-disability propaganda that appears in the right-wing press on a weekly basis that has led to an increase in disability hate crime.

    Whatever anyone thinks of Gordon Brown, at least he never once used his children’s disability and premature death for political capital.

  16. March 12, 2012 4:06 pm

    The photo of David holding his son, the way David’s facial expression and eyes are in the photo does not make me think that there are any nature emotions being conveyed. What do other people think to the way David is coming across as in the photo?

    • trish permalink
      October 21, 2013 12:34 am

      I do not like the look in David Cameron’s eyes, they look cold. He is not looking at his son, he is looking down. To use his sons name so often when he is challenged by some thing he does not want to address is appalling. He did claim DLA for his son, but once his son was gone, he has tried to take away DLA from those in the same position. He does look wrong at every turn, and his comments about his son are not right when another disabled child is being talked about.

  17. erose permalink
    March 12, 2012 4:36 pm

    You are spot on and as a mother who lost a child to illness I find Mr Cameron’s use of Ivan death appauling. There is no love in those photo’s, no tenderness, he might as well have been holding anyones child. A typical candidate kisses baby photo shoot is what it looks like and frankly it worked for him. He has done everthing he can to distroy disabled peoples lives and the NHS rather than improve or protect the services he used for his son. He will now make sure no else has those services for their children. He is a disgrace

  18. Claire P permalink
    March 12, 2012 4:43 pm

    Absolutely right to question it.

    As mother to 4 children with special needs varying from educational through to severe enough to rule out work, plus holder of post grad qualifications in a disability subject, I know that disability and grief affects people differently. For every person moved to fight for disabled people and their rights, there is someone who thinks we should all just be lucky our child is alive / less severely impaired / not living in the Congo, and be grateful for what we have. There are also the ones who will simply fight every other person’s request for help in order to annexe more for themselves, though clearly this does not fit here- it does indicate the variance though. Parent of a disabled child does not automatically equate to any particular set of ethics or political leaning.

    The policies Mr Cameron has seen through- a cut to disabled tax credits, PIP, council cuts- will directly impact on children with all levels of disability. It will mean more children in care. he is subtly narrowing the definition of Carer under Universal credit so that most people will cease to qualify- I will most likely stop, how on earth do I work with 4 schools, 2 of which are SN Units, to co-ordinate? My husband works- seemingly that is not enough.

    What is perhaps most damaging is the bile that the changes has brought from the general public. A dear woman I respect very much lost use of her legs last year, she has 4 children, one with a serious medical condition, one with a life limiting condition and one who is disabled (all unrelated, pure chance). She had to move to adapted accommodation and has had all manner of abuse about ‘ju,ping the list’ from people happy to see her remain in a house where she dragged herself into the bathroom with her arms to bathe the children, just so that they would not have to pay as the ‘taxpayer’.

    It’s a ridiculous system. My own speciality (non medical) is autism and I dread to think what horrors people with the disorder will face, it seems virtually impossible for people with non-visible disability to qualify for ESA so presumably these vulnerable, disabled people will end up on the streets in great numbers alongside our mentally ill kinsmen. If they are refused ESA or PIP and wish to appeal they will have to either accept no benefits (food, housing) for the appeal duration*, or workfare- which many will not be able to complete hence their need for ESA and PIP….

    It is a sad time, and a dangerous one if you are vulnerable.

    * And they are removing the time limit on Appeals, or at least proposing to, and that means people could legally end up with a permanent Appeal ‘in progress’ and never get an answer. If you consider that Appeals have a success rate of somewhere around 70% when the Appellant is properly represented (or 35% if not- see Changes To Legal Aid for further rant material), you will both understand why this is potentially devastating and also money saving in the most cruel way. And when you read about plans to speed up adoption ask why- it’s not just morality and ethics, there will be a huge need for spaces in children’s homes when families lose access to benefits under unachievable (lack of SN Childcare) UC rules.

    • Kay Fabe permalink
      March 12, 2012 5:53 pm

      What’s actually happening with appeals is that from April next year everyone wanting to appeal their Atos/DWP decision will first have to apply for a reconsideration of the original decision from the DWP. There is no time limit specified for this so realistically one can expect there will be no reply within any reasonable time-frame, if at all. While claimants are waiting for this reply they will not be allowed to claim ESA at the basic rate as they are now. They’ll only be offered the option of claiming JobSeeker’s Allowance which since it’s conditional on their being fit to work they’ll clearly be unable to do as your figures above illustrate. There should though be no reason they shouldn’t carry on claiming housing benefit and council tax benefits so they should have a roof over their heads. However, the government appears to be making no provision at all for them to be able to feed and clothe themselves nor to pay ordinary household bills like gas and electrictiy during this period. Let’s not forget we’re talking about taxpayers here, many with decades of contributions behind them. They won’t get benefits to cover this period even if one day they do indeed go on to get either a successful reconsideration in their favour or against that, an eventual successful appeal. It should be born in mind by the casual reader here that a successful appeal would not be the final hurdle. Rather, soon after receiving one’s benefits the entire process repeats all over again. The testing goes on for the rest of one’s life. As can be seen from reading the benefitsandwork forums, many people are stuck already in an endless loop of being tested, being found fit for work, appealing, waiting for many months and being found emphatically unfit for work at appeals only to shortly receive a summons to another assessment which they then emphatically fail. The casual reader might want to reflect on how much this malevolent farce is costing the country.

  19. March 12, 2012 5:15 pm

    You’ve nailed it Alex. Cameron is a spineless moron who uses his son as a human shield.

  20. March 12, 2012 5:27 pm

    It seems appropriate to quote a detail that struck me from the One Month Before Heartbreak campaign last year, Emma’s story:

    “I belong to a Sailability group. One of our boats is called Spirit of Ivan. We were given it shortly after Ivan Cameron died and it was so named in his memory (with the permission of the Cameron Family). The committee wanted to call it that to honour him as “a little boy who will never sail her.” It’s not quite as weird as it sounds, although the Camerons have never been part of our group, we are the closest Sailability to Witney where David Cameron’s constituency is. By naming our boat for him we were also showing our support for his family. For the loss of one of us.

    Now David Cameron is Prime Minister. I thought he understood what disability and being disabled meant. But he and his party won’t stand up for us”

    http://writerinawheelchair.blogspot.com/2011/01/emmas-story.html

    A brave and necessary post. Thank you Alex.

  21. March 12, 2012 5:40 pm

    You’ve dealt with a difficult subject very tastefully, Alex.

    I’d never say that a disabled child should be hidden away because they are disabled, but I would suggest that any child of any politician or would-be leader shouldn’t be photographed in poses, quite clearly publicity.

    I regret to say it but I can’t help think that Cameron has milked Ivan’s disability and death… and his response to Ruddock, clearly meant to embarrass her, was bang out of order.

    ***

    Darkdivinity: I agree with you. These are very clearly posed photographs. It does look very much like the child was being used. They do lack the look of natural emotion.

  22. Riven permalink
    March 12, 2012 5:51 pm

    As a parent of a child like Ivan (severe epielpsy and very severe cerebral palsy), we met David Cameron and stupidly believed he might have an inkling of what we go through. He doesn’t. His vast wealth cushioned him from many of the financial difficulties faced by families like ours – loss of income, reliance on the state, lack of equipment, lack of sleep. He used Ivan both a shield and as a method of saying ‘look at me, I’m one of you’.
    Great blog post that really says it how it is.
    Riven

  23. sallymagill permalink
    March 12, 2012 6:24 pm

    Let’s hope you never have a severely disabled child who is destined to die at an early age and that people who don’t know you pontificate and judge how you deal with your situation. What prejudice you have all shown. And your willingness to slaughter someone because essentially you hate his politics is equally disgusting. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

    • March 12, 2012 7:52 pm

      I know Riven (comment above yours) and she does have a daughter who has similar disabilities to Ivan (though not as cognitively impaired as Ivan was). Some of the others are disabled themselves. Cameron obviously does not identify with other families of disabled children who are not his kind of upper class — he regards them as riff-raff like any other.

    • March 12, 2012 8:42 pm

      Sally, you should probably read the post right above yours to get an idea of how close to the mark Alex’s post was. I thought he tackled the subject, which is
      riven with pitfalls into political in-correctness, bad taste or insensitivity, with a careful and honest analysis.

      We must be careful not to hide behind political correctness. Politicians know where we are likely to sensitive to pressure (old age, disability, the military, etc) and play on these subjects. They know it will be a brave man or woman who will be prepared to raise his or her head above the parapet.

      I don’t think that the rest of us have strayed far from the sensitive way he has dealt with the subject.

    • Riven permalink
      March 13, 2012 5:44 pm

      I do have a child like Ivan and she is expected to die young so I do feel a right to comment on this obnoxious man. He sat in my house and told me he understood what life was like and would do nothing to harm families with children like Ivan. He lied.

    • October 10, 2012 11:20 am

      My son died 26 years ago, from Leukaemia, and if you want to look through my photo album, you’ll never find shots lie those above; nor do I use my son’s illness or death to deflect questions asked of me!

  24. March 12, 2012 7:21 pm

    It’s also notable that Ivan Cameron’s disability did not give him a sufficiently long life or sufficient mental capacity to grow up and have opinions, and perhaps identify with others with disabilities and their families. A very convenient stage prop for Cameron, who couldn’t answer back.

  25. Fiona Bradley permalink
    March 12, 2012 7:38 pm

    Perfectly said.
    Have had similar concerns myself. Children should never be put in public domain. Should never be used to profit parent/carer in any way.
    DC appears to have used his little helpless son for his own political advantage. I hope this is not so, but his lack of concern for other disabled children/adults is somehow telling.
    It IS time we talked about Ivan and all the other people who are having their life chances damaged by what DC and his backers are doing. The destruction of our welfare state for private profit has to be fought.
    Please let us not only “talk about Ivan” but “talk for all the Ivans”

    Thankyou

  26. March 12, 2012 8:24 pm

    The desire for most parents is to protect their children. I have often found brandishing children for publicity’s sake tasteless. I’m not solely thinking of disabled children but parents such as Katie Price and Kerry Katona who make a living from showing off their family life leave me with a bad taste in my mouth. Our children shouldn’t be our income and they should have the right to a normal childhood, whatever normal is. However Cameron took this ‘use’ of offspring to a whole new level with the way he has defended himself from every well-justified criticism of his party’s dismantling of the Welfare system that protects those who are vulnerable and threatens to undo the NHS, the very thing that enables children like his son to live as full and happy life as possible. The man lacks dignity and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if, when reflecting on his memoirs in years to come, he doesn’t realise (that’s if he ever manages to get real) that he has never dealt with his son’s disability and sadly short life because he’s been too busy using it as a weapon against children just like his. He might also reflect that he hasn’t felt the need to ‘use’ his healthy children to defend his decisions or as example of anything. He has allowed them to just be.

  27. thm permalink
    March 12, 2012 8:35 pm

    the little angel will be turning in his grave because of that evil father!! RIP and god bless the little one.

  28. Charles permalink
    March 12, 2012 8:57 pm

    Speaking as a photographer who has done family portraits many times I think far far too much is being read into these pictures. Many times I have taken families on a “photoshoot” with different poses and locations. In many of them the process of doing so does leave some of them looking staged, the trick is to pick the ones that does not.

    I think your interpretation of the pictures is more indicative of what you the viewer wishes to see in them, all I see is poor picture choice by whoever chose the photo’s to use.

    If you had a disabled child that was not expected to live long would you not also work hard to have as many great photo’s as possible?

    I too feel unease that Mr Cameron may be referencing his son too much, but you are all also using Ivan to make a point for your own ends. Perhaps it should be possible to discuss the unwise cuts without any mention of Ivan by anyone and give him the respect he deserves?

    • March 12, 2012 9:40 pm

      I think you could be right, which is why I didn’t write this then. I am wrting now because the use of his son’s memory years after his passing confirms what I saw in the pictures.

      His personal experience could have been the trigger for stimulating genuine debate and finding the right solution to these issues. Instead it is used to silence it. This is why I was forced to write this.

    • March 12, 2012 10:29 pm

      That’s a fair comment, but I’ve yet to see any of the other “family photographs” taken at this session, presumably of him with his wife and, at the time, 2 other children.

    • david bartlett permalink
      March 14, 2012 12:39 am

      Answer to Charles:

      I understand what you’re saying, and indeed the sincere sentiments behind your thoughts. But I’m afraid I have to reply. If you take pictures of families, do you expect them to be plastered all over the national press and “released” by families..? I imagine you expect them to be sent to family members and close friends, put in albums, or framed. Mr and Mrs Cameron took their son on a “presscall” shoot and wired the pictures all over the world. That’s neither an intimate, genuine family record, nor the product of an intrusive N.I. snapper… That’s simply a PR job. Simple. With regard to using Ivan in political debate, I think Sturdyblog is admirable and careful in pointing out that neither he nor any group or individual opposed to Mr Cameron, his party and his policies brought Ivan into the debate. David Cameron did. He turned his son into a nice, handy cluster bomb to silence debate and divert attention. This article seeks to challenge that wilful posing and manipulation. This is about morality, not politics. Would you have us say nothing whenever a poltician behaves abominably..?

    • July 21, 2013 9:20 am

      Yes but we don’t usually use such force! It is clear that these photo’s are that important that Ivan is being held with a degree of pressure/force, you can clearly see David’s fingers digging in, his hand sometimes gripping the neck of Ivan, forcing him to comply with this fathers wishes! This is what I see, not what I ever wanted to see!!

  29. Jackie permalink
    March 12, 2012 9:45 pm

    Powerful, brave and honest piece. I hope you don’t cop too much flak for daring to say this.

  30. david bartlett permalink
    March 12, 2012 10:22 pm

    To think of that poor little boy being used so shamelessly is outrageous. Well done on bravely saying what a lot of people have been thinking. The exploitation of a disabled child for political advantage or for the purpos es of escaping from a debate is unneccessary and ugly. And I feel very sorry for the poor child’s mother having to witness it.

  31. Glen Shakepeare permalink
    March 12, 2012 11:35 pm

    As I have always said, the man is worth in excess of £30m. Why was his son being cared for by the NHS? Because even his son’s death was stage managed. His son was used as an election ploy to help get people to believe he truly cared about the NHS. This has always been blindingly obvious to me and nothing will ever change my mind on the matter. It was stage managed in order to give him this opportunity to destroy the NHS.

    • March 13, 2012 12:05 pm

      His son’s death was ‘stage managed’? Are you actually seriously saying this?

  32. Julie Yarwood permalink
    March 13, 2012 8:33 am

    Cameron has always said that the benefit cuts would allow the money to go where it was most needed…..if that is the case, why was a multi-millionaire ‘filling in a form’ to claim NHS benefits? Clearly, the pittance that is paid was much needed……probably to pay the Nanny’s wages. He should hang his head in shame over this and for repeatedly using his child’s disability for his own ends.

  33. Anon permalink
    March 13, 2012 1:05 pm

    Some people will scoop at anything to make a political point. Sickening.

  34. March 13, 2012 1:18 pm

    I just can’t help but feel that looking after a child with a disability or mourning the loss of a child is something so personal that we shouldn’t create ‘internet graffiti’ by writing about it. As much as I dislike David Cameron’s policies and LOATHE what is planned for the NHS, it should make you queasy imagining how he should feel reading it. Everyone’s grief
    is different; some find it cathartic to talk about
    it, others can’t bear to. I’m not the blog police, just felt compelled to respond.

    • March 13, 2012 1:30 pm

      I understand your point entirely. I am sorry if the post upset you. Ultimately, however, these are significant issues affecting real living disabled children at stake. That was the deciding factor for me.

    • Peachy permalink
      March 13, 2012 1:43 pm

      I have 4 with disability, I have acquired many friends with disabled children, some at the level of severity that Ivan had. I completely disagree that caring for my children is something that is too personal to be written about, quite the reverse. If we hide away how can we complain when policy forgets us and our children? How can we meet others in similar positions?

      Crucially, what message would this give people about acceptance? I consider myself blessed that before the boys were born I nursed, and even attended a pioneering school that operated an inclusive policy as far back as the 1970s. These wonderful opportunities meant that when I made my own foray into this world, I was not a stranger; I spoke the languages.

      An advantage my husband did not have, and that I believe was a factor in the depression he had not long after our second diagnosis.

      Ultimately, this is my life and I am as entitled to talk about it and share the joys and lows as anyone else is about their own pathway. We live in a world where middle aged women discuss their sex lives over lunch on TV, yet people question me talking about my own existence as a carer? I find that bizarre, to be honest.

    • DCisa CompleteUtterNoboidTwunt permalink
      March 13, 2012 2:01 pm

      A fantastic blog article.
      I have felt uneasy with the way DC paraded Ivan for the cameras for a very long time. I find it strange that whilst i am acutely aware of Ivan and the medical conditions he had, i actually cannot tell you the names of DC’s other children.

      This is because his other children (all but the most recent) are not news worthy. He wouldn’t get the extra column inches and he certainly couldn’t have used them to win over concerned disabled and carers.

      Whilst I could maybe forgive him for misjudged media dance, I cannot forgive him for betraying the memory of his son the way he has with the blatant attack on the disabled and their carers.
      He has repeatedly proven himself a liar and has gone back on promises made prior to his election.

      He is a vile man and i do not believe for one second that he himself completed a DLA application form. If he had he wouldn’t spout the utter rubbish about people filling them out willy nilly.

    • Shoesy permalink
      March 13, 2012 2:54 pm

      Very well written Blog and one that had to be written.
      as the parent of a severely disabled child I have been sickened by DC’s
      on disability benefits and the way my daughters likfe is being affected by the cuts he is making,

    • Riven permalink
      March 13, 2012 5:49 pm

      so us parents of severely disabled children who are going to die are not allowed to write? I will write and protest and bring my child on protests until this vile party stop scape goating people like her as ‘scroungers’ and removing vital benefits and respite from exhausted families like ours. If it makes non-disabled uncomfortable, well thats just too bad.

  35. DCisa CompleteUtterNoboidTwunt permalink
    March 13, 2012 2:12 pm

    Li – I would normally feel the very same way if i saw blogs and articles discussing a celebrity and the death of their child.

    But I think that this is a slightly different case. We aren’t discussing Ivan as such, but the way that DC has pawned his sons death to the media in order to gain favour and sympathy.

    As for him applying for DLA whilst being worth more than many local NHS trusts is beyond shameful. It is shocking that he makes no apology for doing so, yet pushes for policy change that means cancer patients must work for their benefits, that the disabled will have to spend months fighting to receive the benefits they are entitled to, because, he says, their isn’t enough money to go around.
    Could that be because people like himself are claiming money they don’t need. They are taking money from a pot that is drying quickly.

    The fact that he honestly believes that we should excuse his blatant attack on the NHS and the disabled merely because one of his children had a disability is incredible. He was voted for by many disabled and carers because they believed he would have a better insight into their plight.

    HE used his son as a political weapon, and his every move since has blighted that poor childs memory.

  36. Sinosimon permalink
    March 13, 2012 3:26 pm

    Alex, there is a valid point to be made about the way politicians use private details to enhance their public profile. And there is no doubt Cameron has used the tragic death of his son to soften the blows of attacks against his NHS policy.
    However, when his son died it was, quite rightly, a private matter.
    Gordon Brown invited several tabloid editors(including from the Murdoch press he claims to loath and consider the pit of iniquity) to his own child’s funeral. If that is not trading on tragedy and grief I dont know what is. Just what kind of character do you have to be to pull that kind of stunt? Using your own child’s death to curry favour with the gutter press?
    Now that is truly disgusting. You might care to adjust the encomium to Brown’s righteousness and moral superiority above, but I doubt you will.

    • March 13, 2012 3:42 pm

      My recollection is quite the contrary. At the time, I remember one picture through darkened limo glass in all the papers. There was then one full interview and set of pictures which went into a book of stories like it for charity. This was months later. I remember at the time of the book’s publication all the tabloids commenting on how it was the first time Brown had talked about it in any detail.

      Recollections can, of course, be wrong, so if you would care to submit some evidence, I would be happy to publish it.

      In any case, it would be academic, as Brown is not in a position to stifle debate about the most radical reforms to Health, Welfare and Social Services by using his personal grief. Cameron is and does.

      All the best.

      • Sinosimon permalink
        March 13, 2012 4:46 pm

        Ask Marina Hyde – hardly a bastion of the rabid right – her article in the Guardian last summer made the same point – http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jul/08/relationship-only-ever-worked-one-way
        I ask again, just what kind of person invites the tabloid hacks into their most private and intimate grief for political advantage? As in actually having them at a family funeral for a baby?
        What Cameron is doing makes me uneasy( I refer to the presentational aspects of mentioning his son in debate) but he never sank to the level of Brown.

      • March 13, 2012 6:41 pm

        Simon, I think you may be letting your dislike for Brown cloud your judgement. The article you cite is about the closeness of politicians and press. It talks about pandering, parties, christenings and the like and mentions that Brown invited “a clutch of editors” to the funeral. My understanding of this, is as guests not to cover it. I think it would be a stretch to read it as anything else. Sure, that makes a point. Just not the one you thought. At all.

  37. Robyn Hunt permalink
    March 14, 2012 2:46 pm

    Thank you so much for writing this wonderfuly astute article, someone needed to say this and I am grateful you did.

  38. Pauline C permalink
    March 14, 2012 4:31 pm

    Hi, I’m not defending Cameron but I just want to point out to you that these photos are all taken in the same location, they are taken by a professional (or using a pro camera) They are all in the same chair , but the background is thrown out of focus/ angle is switched , so thats why it looks like they are indoor and outdoor shots.

  39. Helen Burton permalink
    March 14, 2012 8:31 pm

    Why did he feel it necessary to claim disability allowance for Ivan when he is so rich? Did he really need it? He has no perception of how “normal” parents rely on this allowance, or indeed adult people with disabilities; if so he wouldn’t even dream of cutting such and as a politican with personal experience of having a child with a severe disability he should increase the allowances!.

    • Cluedo permalink
      June 10, 2013 11:13 am

      The biggest shock to me is that he actually applied for disability allowance. Two sets of wealthy grandparents and his own wealth and he still took help from the state? After all, Iain Duncan Smith has been ‘urging’ wealthy pensioners to return their winter fuel and TV allowances. The people who really need help are those now being denied it by Cameron’s government. I wonder how things would have been had he been from an ordinary family. Perhaps he would at least have had compassion for the plight of others in similar circumstances and his portion of disability allowance could have gone to someone with his family background.

  40. Rob McD permalink
    March 14, 2012 10:56 pm

    A very uncomfortable but well written observation. These kind of connived tasteless stunts are a true reflection on the unhealthy state of our current political class. Shame on them. They now seem to have trumped sleaze and expenses fiddling by managing to come up with something even more depraved and repulsive. Dead-child-pawning.

  41. grace anderson permalink
    March 14, 2012 10:58 pm

    i dont think for one minute cameron ever felt the financial burden of a parent carer bringing up a disabled child on benefits felt like, did he ever have to worry about keeping just enough put by to pay for a taxi when his child was ill, dont think so, and lovely photo, just a pity it wasnt whole family.

  42. abby-lee widger permalink
    March 14, 2012 11:39 pm

    I don’t think David Cameron had to live off DLA and very little else when Ivan was alive. I can’t imagine he’d manage to do so even without Ivan. He just has NOOOOOOO idea how long it takes to fill that epic form in when one doesn’t have a fulltime SEN nannny to care for their disabled child. A very calm and well thought out piece of writing. I dont think I could have written it without anger.

  43. Jo Sherlock permalink
    March 16, 2012 8:44 pm

    Well written, over the past few years I have thought the same. I have a 5 year old with Cerebral palsy and yes voted for Cameron for this reason alone hoping he would understand how hard to it as a parent to deal with. He made promises of hope to us all. Now years on I am fighting for everything my son needs. My sons Cerebral Palsy was caused because of medical negligence at birth, caused by the NHS, because of cuts and to save money my son is left in a wheelchair the rest of his life and now he’s making more cuts so more children will suffer. I’m left fighting for everything my son needs. My son needs a specialist bed was told by the local council NO funding available and buy a mattress and crash mats and give him constant supervision though the night. My son needs a lycra suit designed to help children with Cerebral Palsy and help them control movements and can give a better quality of life, again refused because of funded. The wheelchair he was given is always breaking and he is always falling out, again refused again because of funding. The local social services refused to assess my son for direct payments which they offer to help with care, guess what No funds available. I’m sorry to say but I bet he never had to fight and appeal for anything and doesn’t know how it feels to write begging appeal letters and still be refused…..feeling very let down….

    • david bartlett permalink
      March 17, 2012 12:15 am

      I hope Cameron reads your moving comment and is ashamed. I am ashamed to be British while children like yours are being made to suffer. It is disgusting. I despair

      • Peachy permalink
        March 17, 2012 12:31 am

        It IS disgusting. We have 4 children, and since they were born ahve ahd to take a huge cut in income due to a redundancy. Two of the boys attend SN Schools and one is beinga ssessed for the same disorder- autism. Tonight we sat down with our bak details and realised we now have to cut back on food, hot meals at school for the children and not for us. One of the boys has severe speech and language issues, he has lost all his SALT input due to funding. There is NO suitable school place for him after age 11. My husband and I- both people with university educations who always worked, although I am now a Carer- are reliant on anti depressants to cope. We have never had a single day’s respite and never will, Social Services closed our file. Next month we lose a further £100 a month. I despair, and I am scared. I also know my children’s chances of working long term are diminished by these cuts, which is surely the wrong path?

  44. Siobhan C permalink
    March 17, 2012 8:58 am

    My initial reaction when I saw a post by @chunkymark on Twitter referring to David Camerons son looking down from heaven was that it was disrespectful to Ivans memory.I have no doubt that the psychopath Cameron would use his son for any means I dont believe for 1 second he had to fill in benefit forms etc as he said in reply to Dame Ruddocks question. I did feel during Ivans lifetime Cameron used every opportunity to maximise publicity about his son to garner favour with voters and it seems he is continuing to do so after his death.R.I.P Ivan.

  45. Gina @ http://inkyed.wordpress.com permalink
    March 19, 2012 10:19 am

    As an Aussie I was wondering whether it was just me that felt uneasy about some of the ‘Ivan’ stuff – maybe misunderstanding things over there.

    To lose a child is devastating, our first born Meg was just 3 days old when she died after sustaining a brain haemorrhage.

    But raising a child with a disability is very, very different – not devastating, but hindered by red tape so certainly harder than it should be. Our second born acquired a brain injury at 6 months due to to complications of the flu and medical inadequacy. He is a profoundly disabled little boy who is working hard to prove everybody who doubted him wrong. But it is a fight, a tiring, frustrating fight for the basic services – I am sure NHS is no different. Had Ivan lived to be a school boy, a teenager, a young man, a middle aged man, an elderly man then what Cameron might realise is that every – single – step – of – the – way there would be people trying to block a good life, an ordinary life for Ivan. In Australia it is the “not for profit organisations” that pay wages to staff first and provide services from the crumbs (after devaluing the people they are meant to support in horribly charity model adverts) that do the most damage.

    Cameron needs to understand that 6 years does indeed give him some insights – but he needs to listen to those who have been doing it longer, who are still doing it eg the parents of the 40 year old man, of the 65 year old lady still in their primary care. He needs to listen.

    Thank you for such a well written piece.

  46. Andy P permalink
    March 19, 2012 1:24 pm

    Alex,

    Interesting and challenging piece.

    Doesn’t mean that DC didn’t love his son. Just means that he has used his illness and death to deflect criticism about his policies.

    The temptation to do the latter must have been immense – but giving in to this temptation is unfortunately a measure of the man and the father.

  47. Emma286 permalink
    May 8, 2012 12:40 am

    I think your comments are spot on. Well said! I had the same inner nagging feeling in reaction to those pictures. There is definitely something unatural about them – to the extent of being outright disturbing! And also agreeing with what was said on David Cameron s using Ivan as a means to deflect questions regarding Welfare issues. I think it’ s extremely immoral and in very bad taste!

  48. August 25, 2012 1:16 pm

    Thank you for this article; it was much needed and there has been a lack of courage in addressing the issue. I have never before seen a politician so obviously using their children, and in such a markedly unpalatable manner. Cameron used Ivan’s condition and his experience with it to convince the public that he would never harm ‘the most vulnerable in society’ (his words exactly) and the NHS and since election to office this is precisely what he has proceeded to do. He has abused the public’s trust and the memory of his own child. A sociopath.

  49. Silver Sapphire permalink
    September 6, 2012 10:40 am

    A very well written piece Alex. Perhaps its time for the MP’s who are being stonewalled by Cameron using his late son as a shield, to call him out on it and by that I mean challenge him about it instead of taking the rebuff and sitting down again. Cameron did fill out a DLA form and he did have a disabled child, the word there is ‘did.’ The policies he is presiding over for disabled children and people today are happening now and they need dealing with now. MPs should tell him they understand he had these expeiences in his life and sorry that little Ivan is no longer with us, but that they need him to focus on what is happening now, don’t let him keep wriggiling out of facing up to the wrecking ball he is systematically taking to the disabled in Britain today.

  50. October 11, 2012 4:47 am

    “…inappropriate. It is distasteful and immoral.” I’d like to add unethical & obscene to your views.

    As I’ve never read your blog before, I thought this was going to be just another rant at Cameron for using his son. How wrong was I? You’ve tackled the issue with tact and diplomacy.

    Thanks for a brilliant article.

  51. October 14, 2012 3:17 pm

    Why was he even claiming disability allowance for Ivan he has/enough money to pay for everything his son EVER needed.

    So he filled in a disability form and no doubt claimed – had he even thought to himself I am stealing this disability money from someone that needs it, someone in the ‘lower class’ someone ‘poor’ ?

    Maybe the welfare reform should of instead been that people with high incomes SHOULD NOT be entitles to disability at all !

    Shocked and disgusted that he claimed !

    • Peachy permalink
      November 16, 2012 12:28 pm

      Whilst I understand your point, a lot of other services are often linked to claiming; for example where I live you cannot get a blue badge without a claim for DLA- and I am sure Ivan benefitted immensely from having one of those. Now, I haven’t (yet) claimed for my youngest son as we are already claiming for two (damned genetics eh?) but I would if finances required it: or if we needed to access a service that was linked to DLA, as so many are (respite, various charity support groups).

  52. April 6, 2013 10:27 am

    Not in one picture is he looking at his son, how can that be?

  53. Katy Rosewell permalink
    June 10, 2013 11:01 am

    It is indeed most disagreeable to use the poor health and subsequent death of a child as a shield to protect the parent against any criticisms rightfully levied against his government regarding the heinous suffering that his policies directed against sick and disabled have unleashed. It is at best disgraceful, at worst, it displays a callous, selfish and most inhumane aspect to a powerful man’s character, bringing into question his fitness for purpose.

  54. Teesside Solidarity Movement permalink
    June 10, 2013 12:11 pm

    Reblogged this on Teesside Solidarity Movement.

  55. June 10, 2013 4:32 pm

    Cameron’s use of his Son’s Disability brings incredible rage in me? Cameron from the very off said he understood about disability and all the extra worries and problems it brings, he is a bloody liar and a complete S###.

    He used his poor son to con the idiot voters that he was a caring and compassionate human being, anyone who voted for Cameron thinking he cared about the vulnerable in society were complete idiots or Nazi sympathisers….

    http://www.atosvictims

  56. June 11, 2013 12:16 am

    HE IS A MONSTER THAT CAMERON, A SHAME ON THE HUMAN RACE

    THE SOONER HE IS CUT DOWN FOR GOOD ! THE BETTER FOR ALL :(

  57. June 11, 2013 11:57 am

    David camerron should know more about disability then most as his son was disabled but with regret he has created policy’s that have led to many deaths in the welfare reform process. Ed milliband would have done the same lets make no mistake about that. The political education at Oxford being a very radical university in where life is worth nothing only money should hold same of the blame

    If i was being educated their i would certainly have left and quick i just thank god my daughter who went their for the day declined there offer and stayed away

    She is doing very well at Cardiff uni in politics and is please to report that it’s views and that of her fellows students is very balanced unlike Oxford

  58. Germaine permalink
    June 30, 2013 12:43 am

    Was ivan put on the liverpool care pathway ?

  59. July 21, 2013 7:18 am

    The death of my daughter didn’t make me love the NHS, in fact it made me hate them for a time because of what I saw as their incompetence and stupidity. I suspect that’s what we’re seeing in Camerons destruction of what is actually a much needed and usually competent service… Revenge!

  60. trish permalink
    October 21, 2013 1:08 am

    It is not always true that people who have the same problems show any consideration to their own kind. Some are very selfish and totally disregard those in the same boat. It does not necessarily make them more humane or giving. They can have a total disregard of those who are just like them. Some see their woes or struggles as unique to them and they do not want others in on it.

  61. chronically disabled permalink
    December 22, 2013 2:26 am

    David Cameron is punishing the disabled for having a disabled
    son, the so-called man is victimizing the disabled and for a
    multi millionaire to claim any benefit is disgusting that include`s
    his wife.
    He has hired a mercenary company in ATOS to do the dirty
    work that decent doctors and nurses refused to do by declaring
    all disabled people fit for work, this government need
    a vote of no confidence to force a general election in the UK

    The Cameron`s would have pocketed roughly £30,000 from
    the disabled living allowance at the higher rate for 5 years

  62. the biggest cunt permalink
    July 26, 2014 6:21 am

    i have epilepsy and nearly died(had serious status epeliticus)due to people not knowing what to do with me i was choking on my tongue) my aunt died from it ,and my poor widowed mother has two sons 1 which is me that fits while awake and other which is my brother who fits while in hes sleep yet she struggles week in week out for money yet has no option than to watch her children as i suffer badly from panick attacks and mental health due to condition and fear of death.i think its all to convenient that the cuts are made now he dosent need them(like he did in the first place what is hes yearly wage as an mp? )but people who genienuley need it, and cant afford to hire 24 hr care elsewhere are worse off its a fkin disgrace and if my mother has to suffer near on poverty because she has to care for her sons then i will kill myself because its me whos causing this poverty for my family coz of my illnesses .so fk u cameron and i will fkin haunt you when i do it .to be fair god probably new ur intentions so u wonder why karma got you ?

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