David Cameron's father Ian dies in hospital

David Cameron describes his relationship with his father in March 2010 - Trevor McDonald Meets David Cameron, ITV1

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Prime Minister David Cameron's father Ian has died after suffering a stroke and heart complications while on holiday in France.

Mr Cameron missed the weekly prime minister's questions to fly to be with his father in hospital.

Downing Street said his father died shortly after the PM arrived at the hospital in the South of France.

He told ITV in March his father was a "huge hero figure for me" who had a great sense of optimism.

It is understood the prime minister will remain in France overnight.

Mr Cameron was told on Wednesday morning his father was seriously ill after suffering a stroke and heart complications. After talking to doctors at the hospital, the PM decided to fly to be with his father and mother Mary.

Close bond

Downing Street said French President Nicolas Sarkozy had arranged a helicopter to take Mr Cameron to the hospital so he could see his father.

Sources told the Press Association he was "incredibly grateful" as he may not otherwise have been able to get there in time and was "relieved" to have been at his bedside.

Correspondent's view

To David Cameron his father was a hero, a man who never complained about his disability and a key inspiration behind the 'Big Society' theme that characterised the Conservative election campaign.

In a newspaper interview he reflected: "I've never really heard him whinge about anything."

After the election Ian Cameron said he always thought David had the capability to be prime minister, but added unlike his son, he was not a politician. He spent his professional life as a stockbroker, and sat on parish and church councils.

David Cameron said his father and mother - who worked as a magistrate - "wore their public service so lightly".

David Cameron said he almost gave up politics after his six-year-old son Ivan died last year. Last week the Camerons brought their new-born daughter Florence home to Downing Street. Ian Cameron did not see his grand-daughter before he died.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who stood in for Mr Cameron at the first PMQs after the summer recess, sent his thoughts and condolences to Mr Cameron's family and said he was glad the PM was "able to be at his father's side at the end".

Chancellor George Osborne told the BBC: "It's a very difficult day for David Cameron and his family.

"I know David was very, very close to his father, and his father hasn't been well over recent years, but he's always been a really strong presence I know in David's life, and I'm sure he'll be missed by David and missed by all of us who knew him."

BBC political correspondent Laura Kuenssberg said Mr Cameron had often spoken of the close bond between him and his parents, who lived in Peasemore, Berkshire.

Ian Cameron, 77, was born with both legs deformed, and endured repeated operations in an attempt to straighten them and ease his pain.

Despite his disability he forged a successful career as a stockbroker and is a former director of estate agent John D Wood.

The prime minister said before the general election that his father was a "glass half-full" person with a "sense of optimism".

He told ITV 1's Trevor McDonald: "My father is a huge hero figure for me, because he's an amazingly brave man....

"To have a disability in the 1930s and 1940s, a different age, was really tough, but he never let it affect him in any way. "

Giles Andreae, a friend of Mr Cameron's, told the BBC: "David adored his father and his mother. I think they both have a really seminal influence in the man he is now and in his politics actually."

Mr Cameron's wife Samantha gave birth to their fourth child, Florence, last month.

The couple's first child Ivan, who was born profoundly disabled and needed round the clock care, died in February 2009.

Mr Cameron's biographer James Hanning told the BBC family was "hugely important" to the prime minister: "They are a very strong family but they have been through it."

Labour leadership contender David Miliband said he was "very sorry" to hear the news: "My thoughts are with David and his family." A spokesman for Gordon Brown said the former prime minister had written to Mr Cameron to express his condolences.

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