The Sketch: Beautiful, but the show should have gone on

Simon Carr
Thursday 26 February 2009 01:00

The deeper we look into each other the fewer differences we find. Politics divides us a lot, our daily lives less so, death least of all. There's an equality there, of a sort, in the end. As General de Gaulle said to his wife at the graveside of their disabled daughter: "Come: Now she is like the others."

It may be why there's always a silence when the Prime Minister reads out the names of our dead soldiers (there were three again yesterday). The fear of, or reality of, or at least a reminder of the end of things – it always gives them pause. In the crush of the House of Commons, in the thigh-to-thigh contact, it is a glimpse of something lonely we prefer to avoid.

Gordon Brown spoke well. They all did, but his deep, dark voice was especially fit for the work. Vince Cable for the Liberal Democrats as well. They've both been through the mill. William Hague acted as an intermediary for his leader and made an elegant reference to Gordon Brown's manner, his condolences and his experience ("as much as anyone in this House he will understand the dimensions of this loss"). The Prime Minister looked at his hands; his discomfort was also touching.

But when Hague mentioned the NHS, Dennis Skinner started talking to Liam Byrne sitting in the gangway, and there was a shift in the mood in the House.

Hague went on a bit about the "dedication, support and love" of the professionals, and you could feel people wondering if that was entirely disinterested. His last words didn't elicit much reaction: "He will always be their beautiful boy." And he sat down among murmurs. As a matter of fact, Ivan really was a beautiful boy. I ran into the family having a Saturday lunch in a pub on the Windrush river some months ago. We chatted.

Ivan was lying on his back in his specialist carrying apparatus, in the middle of his easy family with a brother under the table and a Mrs Darling mother beside him. He had beautiful eyes and skin, chubby cheeks. And he looked wonderfully cared for; cherished; a beautiful boy.

Having said that, they really shouldn't have suspended Parliament for him. "As a mark of respect to Ivan," the Speaker said. They must have let the idea run away with them. The deputies could have managed a muted PMQs, surely. And for all the private pain, there is the life of the nation going on day by day.

A suspension has happened once before in a similar circumstance. But that was for John Smith, one of the parliamentary figures of the time. He was of the place. He was a public part of the place. This confusion or conflation of private life with the Government's, it's just not right.

Sympathy from across the political divide

"I was shocked at the terrible news this morning of the death of Ivan Cameron. My deepest sympathies are with David, Samantha, Nancy and Arthur."

Boris Johnson, Mayor of London

"My heartfelt condolences go out to David and his family following the tragic loss of their young son Ivan. Our thoughts are with the family during this sad and difficult time."

Alex Salmond, First Minister of Scotland

"Nothing can prepare you for the loss of a child, and there have been occasions before when Ivan had to be rushed to hospital, but thanks to the care and skill of the NHS, he survived. And so, I think, this morning's events have taken the ground away from underneath David and Samantha."

Michael Gove, shadow Children's Secretary

"I can think of nothing more tragic than the passing of a young child. My thoughts and prayers are with David and his family at this terribly difficult time."

Peter Robinson, First Minister of Northern Ireland

"We are very sorry for the tragic loss of Ivan Cameron and our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time."

Jon Sparkes, Scope chief executive

"I would like to extend my deepest sympathy and condolences to David Cameron and his family following the tragic death of his young son. This is a terrible loss and my heart goes out to them."

Rhodri Morgan, First Minister of Wales

"My heart goes out to David and Samantha at this incredibly difficult time for them and their family."

Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats

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