Cameron says farewell to his 'huge hero figure'

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Indy Politics

Shortly before the election, David Cameron paid an emotional tribute to his father as a "huge hero figure" and told how his indomitable spirit was a constant inspiration to him.

After an emergency dash from London to the South of France yesterday, the Prime Minister said his farewells to Ian Cameron, who died suddenly after suffering a massive stroke on holiday.

His death came after a turbulent 18 months for Mr Cameron in which he has lost his eldest son, Ivan, moved to Downing Street and become a father for the fourth time two weeks ago.

Ian Cameron, who passed away yesterday afternoon at the age of 77 with his family at his bedside, died without meeting his youngest grandchild, Florence.

After his mother, Mary, rang early yesterday to tell him his father had collapsed, Mr Cameron cancelled all his engagements and flew to France.

He only arrived before his father's death because the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, arranged for a helicopter to meet the flight and rush him to his father's hospital.

Ian Cameron, a retired stockbroker, was born with severely deformed legs and underwent several operations as a child to straighten them. His legs were amputated in later life, forcing him to use a wheelchair to move around. He was also blind in one eye.

Downing Street said his death was not related to his existing medical problems, but that Mr Cameron had suffered a "stroke and heart complications".

Mr Cameron has repeatedly spoken of his admiration for his father's spirit in overcoming his medical problems to build a successful business career.

He said before the election: "My father is a huge hero figure for me. He is 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."

Mr Cameron also once recalled how he was on holiday with his parents as a child when he heard someone remark: "That guy's wearing funny boots." He found the comment "odd" because he had hardly ever noticed his father's disability previously.

The Prime Minister's parents had been halfway through a fortnight's break in France when Mr Cameron Snr was taken to hospital.

After receiving a call at 6am from his mother, the Prime Minister spoke to the doctors caring for his father. After learning that his condition was critical, Mr Cameron caught a flight to Toulon with his brother, Alex, and sister, Clare. They were met by a helicopter and flown to the hospital.

Tory sources said the Prime Minister was "incredibly grateful" to the French authorities who had provided the transport because of security concerns. They said that despite his sorrow he was relieved to have been at the bedside and pleased that his father died peacefully during a "happy family holiday".

Mr Cameron stayed last night in accommodation also provided by the French government and is due to return to London today. He is expected to take several days off work while the funeral arrangements are made.

His deputy, Nick Clegg, stood in for him at Prime Minister's Question Time yesterday and will fulfil other engagements in the Downing Street diary.

His wife, Samantha, and their children remained in London.