The Guardian apologises to David Cameron for ‘privileged pain’ comment

David Cameron's long-awaited political memoir is published this month. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
David Cameron's long-awaited political memoir is published this month. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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A London newspaper has been forced to apologise for remarks made in an editorial column that claimed David Cameron felt only “privileged pain” over the death of his disabled son, Ivan.

The Guardian said the original version of the piece, which was published online on Sunday, “fell far short” of its standards.

It was written in response to an extract from Mr Cameron’s long-awaited political memoir, in which the former prime minister described the death of his six-year-old in 2009 when he was then leader of the opposition.

The editorial read: “Mr Cameron has known pain and failure in his life but it has always been limited failure and privileged pain.”

It continued: “Even his experience of the NHS, which looked after his severely disabled son, has been that of the better functioning and better funded parts of the system.”

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Chancellor Sajid Javid desribed the editorial as “shameful”. He added: “Never has an editorial so lacked in empathy, while so righteously criticising others for lacking it.”

Comedian and actress Jenny Eclair tweeted: “I am furious with David Cameron but to question his grief privilege as the Guardian is doing is vile beyond vile - his 6 year old son died.”

Ivan Cameron was born in 2002, a year after his father was first elected as a Conservative MP. It was later discovered Ivan had cerebral palsy and a severe form of epilepsy that led him to have 20 or 30 seizures in a day.

In an extract of his memoirs published in the Sunday Times, Mr Cameron recalls taking Ivan to hospital when he was just a few days old.

“When you watch your tiny baby undergoing multiple blood tests, your heart aches. When they bend him back into the foetal position to remove fluid from the base of his spine with a long, threatening-looking needle, it almost breaks,” he wrote.

Mr Cameron’s wife Samantha told the Times in 2017 her son’s death “overshadowed everything” and rendered the outside world “meaningless”.

“Like anyone else in my situation, I just kept going. You have to deal with it, because you have no choice.”