David Cameron said yesterday that the thousands of letters of support he received after the death of his son Ivan helped him and his family come to terms with the "enormous shock" of losing their eldest child.
Mr Cameron gave his first interview since Ivan's death on ITV's The Alan Titchmarsh Show and talked at length about his severely disabled six-year-old son, who died following a seizure last month. The Conservative leader explained how he and his wife, Samantha, sat together and opened letters and photos from families who had been through similar experiences. In total, the couple received more than 11,000 messages of support. "It was just fascinating to read letters from people you have never met or are never likely to meet, but who just felt moved to write a letter and tell their story," he said. "That was helpful.
"Everyone says that there will come a time when you'll look back and feel happy at his life, and you'll remember the good things and not just be sad at his death. I know that will come, it just takes some time. And we just miss him."
Tory officials were furious last night at the way Mr Cameron's appearance had been billed as an interview about Ivan's death, something they said was done without their consent. They have complained to the programme's producers.
"We did not give any authorisation to pre-brief in the way they did," a Tory source said. "We agreed that David would be asked a question about Ivan, but it was never intended to be an interview exclusively about that."
A spokesman for ITV said the interview had not been billed as an interview exclusively about Ivan, but that it had been briefed to the media as "the first television interview since the death of Ivan".
"It was agreed that Mr Cameron would be asked about Ivan, which he was," the spokesman said. "The interview then moved into other areas."
Mr Cameron said that although his son had been unwell throughout his life, suffering from a severe form of cerebral palsy and epilepsy, his death had come as a huge shock. "We always knew that Ivan wouldn't live forever because he had been incredibly ill in his short life," he said. "But we never expected him to die so young or so suddenly. It's just a real bolt that hit us.
"I do remember how much pain he had in his life and all the operations and all the seizures. And that pain has stopped, so that's a positive thing to hold on to." He also talked about how his other children, Nancy, five, and Arthur, three, were coping with his loss.
"There are moments where they think about it a lot and talk about it – and then other moments when they seem OK," he said. "Nancy takes the view that Ivan is in heaven now and he's doing things that he couldn't do before, like walking and talking and eating chocolate. That was lovely for her to say that."
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