Regardless of your political stance, we can all agree that describing David Cameron’s child bereavement as “privileged pain” is unacceptable. Please note that this article might be triggering for some readers.
Since former Prime Minister David Cameron resigned after masterminding the Brexit referendum, he has kept a low profile. The fact that he pretty much washed his hands of the whole affair – despite sparking the most divisive political moment in UK history – has led to outrage from all sides. Fast-forward three years and Cameron is back to publish his memoirs, For The Record. Because he has re-emerged just weeks before the Brexit deadline to promote the book, he has inevitably been scrutinised.
But, there is one particular interview with Cameron that has gone viral, and it’s not about his politics; it’s about the bereavement of his son, Ivan.
In published extracts from his book, Cameron praises the NHS for caring for his disabled son before he died aged six in 2009.
The Guardian then wrote an article which read: “Had he been trying to get the system to look after a dying parent rather than a dying child, he might have understood a little of the damage that his policies have done”.
It also added: “Mr Cameron has known pain and failure in his life but it has always been limited failure and privileged pain.”
The article has since gone viral on Twitter, with many people questioning if there is such a thing as “privileged pain” when talking about the death of a child.
People who have condemned the term include Ben Fogle.
The TV presenter, who had a stillborn son, William, with wife Marina in 2014, wrote: “Despite the geo-political and economic divisions that have polarised the world, pain is universal. Black, white, rich, poor, Muslim, Christian, gay, heterosexual, it doesn’t matter who you are, the pain of losing a child is like ripping out your heart.”
He added: “I am not a Tory and I am certainly no apologist for David Cameron but to describe the loss of his son Ivan as ‘privileged pain’ is grotesque. Deeply offensive to the many thousands of us who have lost children of our own. I too am privileged and I have also lost a child. Your editorial insinuates that I too only experienced ‘privileged pain’.
“There is no privilege in being called in the middle of the night, on the other side of the world to tell you your son has died and your wife may die too.”
Fogle also said that the article has “relapsed my grief like PTSD”.
Author and mental health activist, Matt Haig, also shared his views on the subject, tweeting: “There’s no privileged pain. Only pain. No privileged death. No privileged depression. No privileged suicide. Your schooling and gender and class don’t make pain any less. Sure, privilege can help you get help for your mental (and physical) state, but pain is pain. We are humans.”
And Haig shared a post on Instagram, asking: “If someone posh dies by suicide is that a privileged suicide? If someone posh loses a loved one is that a privileged grief? I have known pain as a poor person and a well off person and the pain was still pain.”
Yes, we should certainly continue to check people’s privilege when it comes to social matters – especially politicians. But whether you agree with Cameron’s politics or not, his grief should not have been described in this way.