LONDON // On the day the government of David Cameron, the British prime minister, launched a programme aimed at parents who neglect their children, media reported he had left his eight-year-old daughter in a pub after Sunday lunch.
Downing Street yesterday blamed the fact that daughter Nancy had been accidentally left at the pub near the PM’s country residence at Chequers in Buckinghamshire, about 50 kilometres west of London, on a mix-up between Mr Cameron and his wife, Samantha.
A spokesman said Nancy had wandered off to the toilet while the Camerons were arranging lifts back to Chequers in two cars with the two other families they had dined with. It was only when they got back there that they realised Nancy had been in neither car.
“The prime minister and Samantha were distraught when they realised Nancy wasn’t with them,” the spokesman said.
“Thankfully, when they phoned the pub, she was there safe and well. The prime minister went down straight away to get her.”
The incident, which happened about two months ago, left the girl alone in the Plough Inn for about 15 minutes, according to The Sun newspaper, which broke the story yesterday hours before Eric Pickles, the communities secretary, unveiled a £450 million (Dh2.5 billion) scheme aimed at giving local councils a financial incentive to deal with “problem families”.
Asked in a Radio 5 interview if there were parallels to be drawn between such families and parents who inadvertently left their children in pubs, Mr Pickles replied: “We’re definitely not talking about that, mainly for my job security.”
Public reaction to the incident was mixed, with many saying the mistake could have happened to anyone and only served to show the Camerons were human.
Others, though, were not so forgiving with one woman commenting on the BBC website: “As a parent, I am absolutely appalled.
This is certainly not something that ‘could happen to anybody’, never mind someone surrounded by taxpayer-funded bodyguards.
“Social services have often been involved for events which are far, far more trivial.”
Another said: “How anyone can possibly leave their own child in a pub is beyond me. And this man will still give lectures and speeches on how people should run their homes and lives?”
The Sun quoted an unnamed “insider” at the pub as saying: “You’d have thought someone would have done a head count or something. Pub staff found their daughter in the toilet and didn’t know what to do. It’s not like you can look up David Cameron in the phone book and then ring to say: ‘You’ve left your daughter behind’. It’s frightening the prime minister of Britain can forget something so important as his own daughter.”
But Steve Hollings, the Plough landlord, told reporters yesterday: “What do you want me to say? That he’s a neglecting father? Well he’s not. He’s a great father and genuine family man and genuine guy. I’ve only got good things to say about him.”