So the Camerons found it difficult to care for their son who was disabled, even though they had some money to to enable them to have help when they required it.
For most of the population they do not have this money over their normal essential expenditure and need assistance through their local social services. But due to the austerity cuts under the Cameron led government, social services are having to restrict the amounts they can provide for this help.
So the Camerons are aware of the problems families have, but are creating even greater problems for others in the country. Shows how little they know or care.
- Samantha Cameron reveals how she and David were left shattered as they struggled to cope with their disabled son
- She told how their Christian faith helped them with the strain of caring for Ivan who had cerebral palsy
- Ivan, who also suffered with severe epileptic fits on an almost daily basis, died aged just six-years-old in 2009
- Sam Cam said she would not have survived without her ‘amazing, strong, and steady’ husband
David Cameron’s tearful wife Samantha has revealed how their ‘terrifying and heartbreaking’ struggle to cope with disabled son Ivan brought the couple close to ‘breaking point.’
They were physically and mentally ‘shattered’ by the strain of looking after Ivan – who died aged six in 2009 – when he was first born.
He needed 24-hour-a-day care, and the Camerons were saved when doctors told them it was impossible for them to look after Ivan on their own.
In a wide-ranging interview with Mail on Sunday Editor Geordie Greig for this weekend’s You magazine, Samantha spoke at length for the first time about Ivan, her marriage and being Downing Street’s ‘First Lady.’
She revealed how the couple’s Christian faith helped them cope with Ivan and spoke with pride about how much joy he had brought to their lives.
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‘We could have been angry with God, but we felt He’d given Ivan to us to look after, and we had to do the best job that we could.
‘He was very beautiful, one of the great gifts in our lives.’
She was reluctant at first to talk about Ivan, but says she felt compelled to as she didn’t want him to seem forgotten from their lives.
Samantha said the little boy, who had cerebral palsy and suffered from severe epileptic fits, sometimes on a daily basis, had made their love stronger. But it could have been different.
‘There’s lots of people in our situation whose marriages don’t survive,’ she said sitting on a sofa in the family’s Downing Street flat. ‘Looking after a disabled child pushes you to the limits of what you can cope with physically, emotionally.’
Mrs Cameron wept as she recalled how she and her husband were brought to the brink. ‘Sorry, the mascara must be halfway down my face,’ she apologised through sobs, dabbing her eyes as she regained her composure.
‘By the end of the first year we were totally shattered and pretty much at breaking point. The doctors realised we needed help. But as parents you have this feeling that you shouldn’t ask for help.’
Mrs Cameron also described her fury at education chiefs who tried to force them to send Ivan to a mainstream school on the grounds of ‘inclusiveness’.
The Camerons got him into a special needs school – but only after a bitter fight. ‘It was political correctness gone mad and really upsetting.
‘Ivan had a feeding tube, very bad epilepsy. He couldn’t sit up. He couldn’t communicate at all. He needed to be somewhere more sensory and stimulating with people who knew how to look after him.’
Mrs Cameron told how her joy at the birth of Ivan, their first child, turned into her ‘worst nightmare’ in days.
‘He was making funny, jerky movements and I thought something wasn’t quite right.
‘It’s your worst nightmare. They did a whole load of tests, they push the box of tissues towards you and you feel like you’re in an episode of Casualty.’
It was ‘frightening’ as the ‘scary’ implications dawned on them.
‘It changes your life for ever. It’s tough, lonely and isolating. You know your child is never going to meet the normal milestones. You are terrified of not being able to cope.’
She would not have survived without her ‘amazing, strong and steady’ husband, she said.
His ‘glass half-full attitude’ created a ‘sense that it’s going to be OK’.
But Ivan’s death came as a big shock. ‘It was totally out of the blue and happened so quickly,’ Samantha said.
‘We had built our entire lives around him. Suddenly he’s not there any more.’
She received bereavement counselling and still does occasionally. The couple’s two elder children, Nancy and Elwen, who were five and three respectively at the time of Ivan’s death, were ‘angry and confused’ and also received counselling in the form of ‘bereavement play’.
Samantha Cameron’s first major interview: ‘Dave runs the country; I do the school run’
With the election only four weeks away and the result still uncertain, it is far too soon to say how the history books will record David Cameron’s occupancy of Number 10. But whatever happens on 7 May, there have been few First Ladies like Samantha Cameron. Since David became Tory leader she has given birth to a child and suffered the loss of a child, she is a substantial businesswoman in her own right, she has a tattoo and she has BBC 6 Music, the indie rock fan’s radio station, constantly on in the Downing Street flat.
Tall, almost supermodel skinny, effortlessly glamorous, shifting her dark brown hair from her eyes, there is more than a hint of slinky rock chick Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders about her. But on this glorious spring day, cool cat Samantha is, like many other mothers up and down the country, making piping hot porridge in her family kitchen. The Prime Minister’s red box of cabinet papers lies flipped open on a canary-yellow sofa.
It is 8.15am and the helter-skelter rush from breakfast table to school gate is about to start. The tie-less Prime Minister has his daughter Florence, aged four and wearing a pink and white nightie, sitting on his knee as he flicks through papers on the white-topped oval table. Sam glides between the cooker and the table where the children are in varying degrees of readiness.
She stirs a stainless-steel saucepan full of oats. Maple syrup is passed round as she gives instructions for homework. Arthur Elwen (known as Elwen), nine, and Nancy, 11, chatter away as Elwen makes clear that French is most definitely not his favourite subject. Samantha’s 1950s retro-chic sofas and chairs, with a funky steel lamp stretching over the table, are very different from the heavy sense of history with the portraits of Sir Robert Walpole and William Pitt staring out as you enter No 10.
The Camerons actually live in the flat above No 11, but Downing Street is essentially one building. The moment David steps through the door of the flat into the working part of No 10, the place where he runs the country, he is Prime Minister. But this side of the door he is just Dad and is teased by his children about his cooking, his overly patriarchal interest in their school careers, his cackhanded attempts at DIY or abandoning them at the pub (more of that later).
Which is to say he is ribbed just like any other modern dad with three lively youngsters. They josh him about the Ikea kitchen cupboard he and Nick Clegg knocked together after a struggle, a symbol of the coalition perhaps.
A giant photograph of Ivan, their adored, disabled son who died aged six, dominates the wall opposite. Pictures of Ivan are on the mantelpiece and elsewhere.
While the children dawdle at the breakfast table, Sam presses Dad to put down his top-secret papers and impose some fatherly discipline. ‘The firm smack of government is needed,’ she says jokily. Nancy is telling Mum that the rehearsals for the forthcoming Trooping the Colour in Horse Guards Parade directly behind No 10 have kept her awake. But she is interrupted by Florence, who plonks herself on Dad’s lap on the sofa, taking precedence over any official papers. The red box is cast aside as the Prime Minister brushes her hair, then grabs her clothes and pulls on her tights for her. She reaches for the hand of the most powerful man in Britain to take her to the bathroom. He then returns to ask Sam about the important question of the day: is or isn’t Florence allowed coloured hair clips at school?
‘Off you all go – you know what you need to do,’ says Sam, as the children each grab a toothbrush from a jar on the table and run to the bathroom. ‘You know what you need to do,’ echoes Dad. ‘Play!’ says Elwen cheekily. ‘No! Homework,’ barks Sam.
Elwen practises his sums and does spelling on the computer – until some nearby Lego bricks look more interesting. Dad guides him back to his spelling, gives a ‘kissee’ to Florence, plants a kiss on top of Elwen’s head and then one on the lips for Sam. He has a government to run; Sam has the school run.
As the car wends towards St Mary Abbots Church of England primary school in Kensington, Sam throws out words for Florence to spell: NOT, GO. And then counting up to 30. For Elwen, it is spelling with ‘river’, ‘diver’ and ‘hover’. Florence worries if her apple is too big for her plastic box and if it has mysteriously started to smell. Don’t be silly, it’s delicious, insists Sam. No picky food fads allowed here. No crisps either.
Bright as a button, Nancy got her love of reading from David Walliams’s children’s books. ‘She loved his Gangsta Granny and Demon Dentist. He came to a Red Nose Day reception at No 10 and the children popped down when he was reading a story. They adore him,’ says Sam.
Nancy is no slouch at sums either. Sitting in the car she runs through the six times table, forwards, backwards and randomly – and all correctly; the ‘three Rs’ rule in this family – and finally they arrive. Sam checks coats, homework and takes them in.
Then it is back to her three day jobs: working at Smythson, the smart Bond Street fashion brand (she was creative director until the election when she stood down to become ‘creative consultant’); then there is her weekly charity reception at No 10 to organise and, last but not least, her job of looking after ‘Dave’.
In her first full interview, Sam recalls the shock of moving into No 10 five years ago. ‘I remember day one, I was doing Nancy’s homework with her at home in W10 [their house in North Kensington] and suddenly Dave rings, “You’d better get a dress on because we’re about to go and see the Queen.”
I thought, “Oh my gosh, what am I going to wear?” I was five months pregnant at the time. We zoomed off to the palace – so surreal.’
After selecting a dress suitable for the Queen, she did one other fashion check and made sure the dolphin tattoo on her right foot was concealed beneath her tights, sparing the monarch a glimpse.
Sam casually whips off her shoe to show me the tattoo. ‘I had it done when I was travelling in Indonesia on my year off, just after my A-levels.’
In a tattoo parlour? ‘Yeah, it was just someone who we met and he did tattoos. It was really painful. I had it done on my foot because I thought, “You’re going to have this for ever, so you might as well feel the pain.”’
She points to it. ‘You can’t really see through my tights, but it’s just there.’ I can see the outline of a leaping dolphin. What do her children make of it? ‘Tattoos are everywhere now so I don’t think they’ve noticed.’
What if they come back from a gap year in their teens with a tattoo they’d had done in a remote tropical clime ‘from someone they just met’?
‘I’d be fine about it,’ she says without hesitation. ‘Obviously, you’d have to explain that they might not want it in certain places where it would be for ever, but, no, I wouldn’t have any problem with them having a tattoo.’ I can’t help wondering whether her husband would be as broad-minded.
There is something more than slightly bohemian underneath her elegance and poise. The last album avid music fan Sam downloaded was by a US band called The War on Drugs and she is addicted to BBC 6 Music. ‘I listen to Radio 4 in the morning and the rest of the day I have 6 Music on. I love it.’
Another favourite is controversial psychedelic US band Poliça. Their latest album Shulamith features a grisly front cover with a woman’s back turned, skin bare, hair and neck matted in blood. The video for one track, ‘Tiff’, shows androgynous lead singer Channy Leaneagh waterboarding herself and smashing her own hands with a hammer. It is named in honour of Shulamith Firestone, a Canadian radical Marxist feminist who died in 2012 and was the author of The Dialectic of Sex: the Case for Feminist Revolution. Sam is no mere armchair listener but went to one of their gigs in Shoreditch. Recent books she has read include Mod by Richard Weight, about 1960s Mod culture, from fashion icon Twiggy to the Mods and Rockers riots in Brighton and Margate.
Her social media habits are just as eclectic. She shares videos, food, fashion and travel tips on Pinterest or Facebook; and uses the Shazam smartphone app which can identify even the most obscure piece of music from a few seconds’ riff.
Sam would be the first to admit that David, who got a first at Oxford, is more scholarly. She says she was ‘in the bottom set for maths – though the top one for English’. She went to St Helen & St Katharine school in Oxfordshire, Marlborough College for A-levels, then studied for a degree in fine art at university in Bristol.
And there is no doubt who has the practical skills. For most of their marriage, she is clearly the one who has fixed lightbulbs and repaired wonky shelves. ‘Historically, I’m the one with the drill,’ is how she tactfully puts it, belatedly trying to spare her husband’s handyman blushes by adding, ‘he’s become quite expert at putting together flat-pack furniture over the years. Normally, when I’ve just had a baby.’ In other words, when she can’t hold a drill.
She gets her business acumen from her mother Annabel Astor, who set up her first business aged 17, later co-founded upmarket furniture company Oka and said she would have ‘died of boredom’ if she had been a stay-at-home mum, even though her children begged her to give up work. ‘I remember seeing her in curlers at breakfast before going out to work,’ says Sam. She has a very modern relationship with her mum. ‘She’s friends with all my friends. She has so much energy and is such fun.’
Oka made her mother a business success: friends of the Camerons believe Sam will emulate her and become an entrepreneur in her own right, possibly with her own brand of children’s clothes, but not while the family is in Downing Street.
Husband David has been mocked as a ‘posh boy who doesn’t know the price of milk’ but he is almost plebeian compared to Sam. She has not just one aristocratic dad, but two. Her father is 8th Baronet Sir Reginald Sheffield, a direct descendant of Charles II, and her stepfather is Lord Astor of the Astors of Cliveden fame. In spite of all the blue blood in her veins, she is also the first Conservative PM’s spouse to be forced to deny voting Labour.
Perched on a sofa in her sitting room, Sam says her aim is to create a happy, loving, well-organised family environment that David can come back to – ‘to keep him sane and keep things in perspective’. But his ‘day job’ can intrude at any time, night or day.
‘I remember once, at three or four in the morning – we were in bed together – when the phone rang. The “Switch” [as the No 10 switchboard is known] said, “We’ve got the President of the United States on the line for you.” And it was Obama calling to tell Dave that Osama Bin Laden had been killed.
‘Dave took the call in bed and went downstairs to deal with it. Other things have happened at odd hours: hostage situations and planes flying into Libya. It’s at those moments you realise the huge responsibility that your husband has to keep the country safe.’
She says David tossed and turned at night during the Scottish referendum, terrified they would vote to break up the UK. ‘I’d be lying if I said he didn’t have a couple of sleepless nights.’
Does she then join him if he goes downstairs to his office to sort out an early-hours crisis? ‘No. My job is to look after the family and it’s his job to be PM so I go back to sleep. I’ve got to get the children up in the morning whatever happens.
‘The truth is I am not a very hands-on political wife; I don’t get involved in day-to-day Downing Street life. They don’t need me interfering, but in the evening we will talk about each other’s day. I try to stay out of the Westminster village. There are times when I will be surprised and curious about what’s been announced. I hope that he can get an everyday, down-to-earth view from me, as a mother who works in business.’
She takes no notice of the barbs and insults hurled at the PM on the internet and in the press. ‘You get immune to it. I’m not on Twitter and I don’t read the papers day to day, so I am somewhat protected. There’s this weird separation between your private and public persona.’
She focuses on helping the children cope with their goldfish-bowl life. Florence – Flo, as Sam calls her – was born three months after David became PM, while they were on holiday in Cornwall.
Laid-back Sam says it was ‘hilarious’ – not the first word most women would choose to describe childbirth. ‘You’d think it would be a bit stressful having a baby on holiday, but my sister was staying with us and we had other friends down there, so it turned it all into a bit of a party.’
Flo has never known Dad not to be PM – and explaining this to her has produced more hilarious and enchanting moments for the family. ‘Florence has lived here all her life, chasing the cats around, stealing biscuits and sweets from the offices. A few weeks ago Nancy and Elwen said, “Oh God, Flo’s been going round telling everyone at school that her father’s the Prime Minister.” They were mortified and told her, “Flo, you can’t go around saying that because people will think you’re boasting.” She said, “What’s boasting?” They said, “Bragging, showing off” – and drummed it into her that you don’t do that.
‘Shortly afterwards when I was away for the night on a business trip, my mum went to see the children and Florence dashed up to her and whispered in her ear, “Don’t tell anyone, Granny, but my daddy is the Prime Minister.” The children were hysterical with laughter.’
The Queen saw the funny side when Flo took a shine to her brooch at a Downing Street 90th birthday lunch for Prince Philip in 2011. ‘When Florence was introduced to the Queen she immediately reached out and tried to grab her diamond brooch. Dave and I panicked but the Queen was brilliant and dealt with it well.’
The Camerons will never be allowed to forget leaving Nancy, then aged eight, in the Plough Inn pub near the Prime Minister’s official country residence, Chequers in Buckinghamshire, when they went for a Sunday drink.
More recently, Nancy ticked him off in a typical ‘embarrassing dad’ father-and-daughter scene when they visited Grey Coat Hospital, the C of E state secondary school in London where she is due to start in September. ‘Dave was in politician mode, saying hello to the teachers and good morning to the classes as we were going round. Nancy was mortified, so she got him to agree not to come too near when she starts her new school. They can have a hot chocolate together in a nearby café.’
Translation: Don’t you dare step inside the school gates. Got it, Dad?
Sam chortles as she recalls how Elwen cottoned on to his dad’s trade when he was just four. ‘He said, “I don’t want to be a politicianer; I don’t want to fix speeches.”’
Like Elwen, Sam is happy to leave the ‘politicianer’ stuff to her husband, though she dismisses mischievous rumours that circulated a while ago that she has voted Labour in the past. ‘I’m definitely a Tory. My dad was a Conservative councillor and I spent years as a child knocking on doors with him. I’m a Tory because I’m passionate about business and enterprise. But I am also a compassionate Conservative. There should always be a net through which no one should fall.’
No one can fault the compassionate credentials of a couple whose courage and devotion to their disabled son Ivan moved the entire nation when he died in 2009, aged six, a year before David became Prime Minister. Their bitter struggle with the authorities to get him into the special needs daycare centre they believed he needed opened their eyes to the difficulties faced by thousands of other parents in the same predicament. At the time, education chiefs were closing schools for the disabled on the grounds of ‘inclusiveness’. They claimed children like Ivan fared better in mainstream education. Cynics said it was a way of saving money by closing costly special schools.
‘We had to fight with educational psychologists who said he had to be in a mainstream pre-school nursery. It was political correctness gone mad. It simply wasn’t the right thing and was really upsetting as a parent. Ivan had a feeding tube, very bad epilepsy. He couldn’t sit up. He couldn’t communicate at all. He needed to be somewhere more sensory and stimulating with people who knew how to look after him.’ The frustration and emotion pour out as she relives the struggle for her son. Eventually they got him a place at the ‘brilliant’ Jack Tizard School for children with severe learning difficulties in Hammersmith.
Sam has never discussed Ivan in public until now. ‘If I start crying, ignore me,’ she says, as she begins recounting the story of the boy she lost and still loves intensely. ‘You cling on to all the good that he somehow brought,’ she says, reaching for a box of paper handkerchiefs.
Her voice cracks. She apologises. But she wants to talk about him, so that, just as in his short life he was never hidden away, so will he never be forgotten or brushed aside. She has done many charity events where he has been her inspiration and focus.
Even now, Ivan is central to their family. Little Florence goes with them to visit his graveside, giving the tombstone a hug for ‘Iv’.
Sam continues: ‘Looking after a disabled child pushes you to the limits of what you can cope with…physically, emotionally. It’s because there’s this baby, this child that you love more than you can possibly imagine, in some way more than a normal child because you worry about them 24 hours a day. But at the same time you are so, so proud of them.’
She screws up the tissue in her hand. ‘He was very beautiful, one of the great gifts in our lives. A day when you haven’t been to hospital, a day when he smiled, or a day when you haven’t cried, becomes the most amazing day. You get pride and joy out of the tiniest little kind of triumph. Ivan gave us that every day.’
Did it bring her closer to David? ‘Yes, when Ivan was born, it was heartbreaking but Dave was amazing. He was never anything but optimistic.’
She says David’s ‘emotionally strong and steady’ nature comes from his late father Ian who was born with two deformed legs but went on to lead a successful family and business life.
‘Dave’s dad was an eccentric, brilliant, loving and generous man. That is where Dave gets his glass half-full attitude. And that got us through…a sense that it’s going to be OK.’
The shock of Ivan’s birth was all the more difficult to bear for the Camerons because they had no idea he was disabled until several days after his birth by caesarean section.
‘We were so excited when he was born. It wasn’t clear. Lots of other friends – and my sister-in-law – were having babies at the same time.’
Sam falters as she recalls the painful memory of how her joy was cut short while her more fortunate friends were blessed with ‘normal’ babies. ‘He wasn’t feeding well and was making funny, jerky movements; I thought something wasn’t right. This was not until day five or six. A health visitor came round and said all new mums worry, “Don’t panic.” Eventually my mum took me to the GP and he said, “Let’s get you checked into hospital.”
‘It’s your worst nightmare. They did a whole load of tests, you go into the office with the doctor and they push the box of tissues towards you and you feel like you’re in an episode of Casualty. The doctors gave the bleak assessment that Ivan was suffering from Ohtahara syndrome, a rare brain disorder that meant he had epilepsy and cerebral palsy.
‘It changes your life for ever. It’s tough, lonely and isolating initially. You’re living in a completely different world to your friends who’ve had babies at the same time. You’re suddenly in this weird world of doctors and social services. You know your child is never going to meet the normal milestones.’
She breathes deeply, gathering herself, ‘Sorry the mascara must be halfway down my face.’ I offer to pause for a moment, but she demurs. ‘Grab the tissues for me, I’m fine.’
And she returns to the love Ivan brought and how it made the love between her and David stronger. ‘I’m so grateful for that. There are lots of people in our situation whose marriages don’t survive.’
They got through by accepting Ivan, who sometimes endured fits on a daily basis, as he was. ‘We didn’t try to find some miracle cure. But by the end of the first year we’d both been working and Ivan needed 24-hour care. We were totally shattered and pretty much at breaking point.’
Luckily for the Camerons, doctors noticed they were going under. ‘They realised we needed help. But as parents you have this feeling that you shouldn’t ask for help.’
They arranged some night care to ease the strain of looking after Ivan at home. It saved them – and their marriage. ‘When you have a child whose quality of life is significantly reduced, it’s heartbreaking, you know the future can…’ – she hesitates as the depth of her despair resurfaces – ‘can be scary. You are terrified of not being able to cope with the consequences, as they are so frightening. So you take one day at a time.’
Ivan’s condition made it difficult for him to smile, so each one was all the more precious. ‘He didn’t smile for periods of time, so when he did laugh and smile, it was extraordinary. He used to get pneumonia a lot, so we’d be in hospital with that. But there were also days when I really felt he’d been able to interact and get some pleasure because there were…’ And she stops again. ‘Disabled children can find stuff all a bit overwhelming. You go to the zoo or take them to the theatre and Ivan might sleep the whole way through. As a parent you’re always desperately trying to find things to make them join in. You’ve had it so easy with children who are healthy.’
Then she breaks into a warm smile as she recalls another happy memory. ‘I remember Ivan at the hydrotherapy pool at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital where we used to go. I don’t know whether it was the warm water or the acoustics of the pool, maybe the music, but I’d see him responding and smiling. Taking him swimming was really special.’
Faith also helped Sam and David. ‘I’m a New Testament Christian – I believe in forgiveness, humility, treating your neighbour as yourself.
‘When Ivan was born we could have been angry with God, but we felt He’d given Ivan to us to look after, and we had to do the best job that we could.’
She thinks Ivan changed both her and David for the better. ‘It makes you keep things in perspective, sensitive to others trying to deal with difficult things in their lives. It also makes you tough. And it made us as a family very loving and supportive of each other.’
But the wounds of loss have not disappeared even six years after his death, as sudden and as shocking as his birth. They had no idea Ivan was about to die. ‘It was totally out of the blue, just before his seventh birthday. It happened so quickly. We had built our entire lives around him. Suddenly he’s not there any more.’
Sam still occasionally sees a grief counsellor. Nancy and Elwen also received counselling in the form of ‘bereavement play’ at the Shooting Star children’s hospice in Surrey. They also benefited from going to Child Bereavement UK (formerly the Child Bereavement Trust). ‘They were little but they were angry and confused.’ The grieving for Sam and David has been extremely painful, ‘It takes a long time before you see sunlight poking through the dark fog but never does the pain go as it’s so connected to the love.’
* * * * *
Five years after arriving in No 10, Sam still finds aspects of the job ‘nerve-racking’. None more so than when she accompanies David on foreign trips. ‘When you walk off a plane and there are banks of cameras I am terrified I am going to fall over! I’m often in heels.’
And nothing ever goes completely to plan. In Washington DC last Easter she took a winter wardrobe and arrived to find sweltering weather. ‘Dave and the President were giving longish speeches and Michelle [Obama] and I were standing in front of the TV cameras. Sweat pouring down your back and trying not to look uncomfortable!’
Sitting with the Obamas on a sofa on the balcony of their top-floor White House apartment is a treasured memory. ‘There we were, having a drink with them looking at the amazing view. You’re, like, oh gosh.’
The Camerons were delighted when German Chancellor Angela Merkel invited the whole family to stay at her country schloss outside Berlin, the city where Sam studied as an art student just after the Wall came down in 1989. ‘They’ve just done up the house and she was really keen we came for a visit with the children. So we were, like, “OK, we’ll go for it”. The children were excited because we went on an RAF plane with their scooters. I wanted to take them to see the Berlin Wall and some of my old haunts.’
Sam had put the children to bed but halfway through dinner with the Merkels, a member of staff whispered in Sam’s ear that she should go upstairs urgently to the children’s bedroom. ‘The children were having a huge pillow and duvet fight and no one could get them to calm down, so there were some very firm words from me,’ she says with meaning. ‘I tried to restore some order.’ For all her hippie credentials, it is Sam who lays down the law. ‘Dave’s working a lot, so the bulk of it comes down to me. We try to bring our children up to have good manners. But when you take them out of the family context, you realise maybe their manners aren’t quite what you might wish,’ she says with a parental shrug of resignation.
The Camerons impose a strict regime on their children’s TV and computer game habits. ‘The rules are no screen time until they’ve done their homework in the week. Florence gets a bit of telly during the week because she’s little, but for the older ones, no telly in the week, or maybe not until Thursday evening. And then only if they’ve done their homework and there have been no major misdemeanours. At weekends, there’s telly in the mornings, and it’s relaxed in the afternoon and evenings. We don’t have an Xbox or Wii, but they can play on their iPads or watch telly then.’……..’