A commenter on the Facebook group provoked right-wing wrath after David Cameron’s speech yesterday by posting a photograph of a tearful-looking Samantha Cameron and suggesting that even she was embarrassed that he was using the memory of his late son Ivan – yet again – to support his ever-more-desperate claim to be a supporter of the National Health Service.
In the name of balance, Yr Obdt Srvt responded as follows: “Cameron has again and again put the treatment of his child front and centre during discussion of the NHS – a service that he and his government are now determined to undermine and destroy. He was happy to take Disability Living Allowance for his son, but have you noticed that after Ivan passed away, he was also happy to take DLA away from everyone else and replace it with something that is much harder to get?
“Cameron takes selfishness to new levels and, in my opinion, it would be entirely justifiable if his wife was embarrassed to the core by what he said.”
That quietened the dissenting voice, but not the irritation caused to Yr Obdt Srvt by Cameron’s behaviour, which seems offensive to his own child’s memory. It was, therefore, unsurprising to find that he has ‘form’ in this regard, dating back to before Ivan passed away.
Take a look at the following, from Sturdyblog‘s article We need to talk about Ivan. The article featured a series of pictures of Cameron with his son, including the shot at the top of this article, which the author said made him increasingly uneasy:
“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.”
Writing in March 2012, the author stated: “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.”
Here’s the moment, caught on YouTube:
“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.
“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.”
It was then and it is now.
To put Cameron’s claims about the NHS in perspective, Michael Portillo has been quoted (many times) as saying: “They didn’t believe they could win the election if they told you what they were going to do.” Here’s the moment, from Andrew Neil’s This Week show:
Oliver Letwin has also been – famously – quoted as saying that within five years of a Conservative election victory “the NHS will not exist anymore”.
Andrew Lansley spent six or seven years working on what became the Health and Social Care Act 2012, apparently to make it as convoluted as possible in order to prevent its blueprint for an NHS poisoned by profit-making concerns from being diluted during Parliamentary debate. He was banned from talking about this work in the run-up to the 2010 general election (see Never Again?: The story of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 – A study in Coalition government and policy, The King’s Fund and Institute for Government, p2).
The Conservative-led Coalition came into office promising year-on-year increases in funding for the NHS – and has reneged on that promise every year for which funding outturns are known.
The above are just representative examples of the evidence available to show Cameron’s contempt for the service that treated his son.
Coming right up to date, Political Scrapbook called Cameron’s bluff by referring to disabled children he didn’t mention in his conference speech yesterday. The article quoted him verbatim: “For me, this is personal. I’m someone who’s relied on the NHS and … who knows what it’s like when you go to hospital night after night with a sick child in your arms. How dare they say that I would ever put that at risk for other people’s children?”
Then it continued: “In the interests of balance, here are some other disabled children from around the country — a nation in which 40% of children with disabilities live in poverty — who didn’t merit inclusion in his keynote address.
“Five year old Reuben Sims requires round-the-clock care and breathes using a ventilator. His mother has been charged £18.40 per week for the ‘spare bedroom’ used to store Reuben’s medical supplies.
“Here is Luis Rennie, who suffers from cerebral palsy and is registered blind. He has faces eviction from his family home — specially adapted at a cost of £60,000 — if his mother refuses to pay for the room used to store equipment such as wheelchairs.
“And it’s not just the Bedroom Tax which is putting the squeeze on families with disabled children.
“A flavour of the impact of austerity on services provided directly by local authorities is given in an analysis of London boroughs by Ambitious About Autism:
- Cuts to transport services for children with special education needs
- Cuts to children with disabilities teams
- Charging for non-statutory services
- Provision of statutory services at a reduced level
“Then there’s Universal Credit, which — if Iain Duncan Smith’s team develop the competency to actually implement the policy — will leave 100,000 disabled children worse off by more than £120 per month.
“Young people’s charities also face public funding cuts of almost £405 million over the five years to 2015/16 — a greater proportion than the rest of the voluntary sector.
“Respite for carers is being slashed, with eight out 10 family carers telling Mencap that ‘they have reached breaking point due to a lack of short breaks’:
“‘When you care for someone 24 hours per day and you know it’s going to be forever, sometimes a short break is your only hope.'”
Yr Obdt Srvt has personal experience as a carer and knows this statement to be true.
The sad fact is that the likes of David Cameron will never accept that using a dead relative as a commodity, as a trump card in an argument, is morally wrong. They do not understand the swell of indignation they create whenever they put their grief (whether real or feigned) on parade in a bid to gain electoral sympathy – and voters’ support. They believe they are right to do so.
They deserve to be stripped of that misapprehension in the most humiliating way. When it happens, let’s hope it hits Cameron as hard as the slap in the face he so richly deserves – from his own spouse.
Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike
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