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Sympathy not really the main question.

Byline: Maureen Messent

IT'S been hard recently not to become obsessed with death - but abandon Question Time in the Commons because a child has died?

That's inappropriate.

While we sympathise with the Camerons over the death of their son - an echo of the Browns losing their daughter - let's not return to the sodden-tissued days of 1997 when numpties were mourning Diana.

I don't know the Camerons any more than I knew the Browns, so how, in a world where we hear daily of young deaths, can I be touched personally?

Death is a private matter, best kept in the bosom of the family, not held up for public consumption like Jade Goody in her latter days.

The Camerons, of course, in no way courted publicity, but the way their bereavement was played out at Westminster is an example of how ghoulish we've become. Having lost our belief in God and an after-life, we've substituted a morbid interest in terminal illness, last words and death-bed scenes.

The House of Commons mustn't be disturbed by a party leader's domestic loss, no matter how sad.

It's the world's Mother of Parliaments and, therefore, should be above those tributes, unavoidably mawkish, we heard for a little boy none knew.

On the day of Ivan's death came news of national import: three more British soldiers had been killed in Afghanistan while a fourth died in Selly Oak Hospital.

These losses were recorded in the House, but there was no thought of suspending PMQT from the very government who sent these men to their deaths in an immoral and pointless war.

Are we saying then that the son of the Leader of the Opposition was a more worthy subject of grief than those four soldiers?

They, too, were sons, probably husbands and brothers, and, while they knew death might visit them, they were serving all of us.

Nothing comparable between little Ivan and these men, then.

Daily we see pictures of Third World starvation and barely take in the babies' swollen bellies and their desperate mothers. We have grown selective in what we allow to touch us.

We can't, for sanity's sake, bleed for all.

The Camerons' grief is no deeper through their celebrity than the pain of all parents who lose beloved children prematurely.

Prime Minister's Question Time must be inviolate, not pander to sentimentality parading as vaguely religious.


The Camerons at the funeral of their son Ivan, who died last week.
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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Mar 6, 2009
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