'There is no privilege in holding your dead son in your arms': Ben Fogle slams 'grotesque' Guardian article that said David Cameron only suffered 'privileged pain' over death of his son as he describes the 'terrible, life changing' impact of losing a child

  • Ben Fogle, 45, has slammed The Guardian in an open letter on Instragram
  • Adventurer called paper 'grotesque' after piece on David Cameron's 'privileged pain' regarding his description of death of son Ivan, six, in his memoirs
  • Mr Fogle and wife Marina lost third child William when he was stillborn in 2014 
  • Broadcaster said his pain 'relapsed like PTSD' when he read Guardian piece 

Adventurer Ben Fogle has revealed his own heart-breaking experience at losing a child in the wake of David Cameron speaking about the loss of son in his memoirs.

The broadcaster posted an open letter on Instagram urging people not to politicise pain, adding parents who have lost children are united regardless of their personal beliefs.

Fogle had a stillborn son William with wife Marina in 2014 and almost lost his spouse too after she suffered an acute placental abruption at 33 weeks. 

His open letter criticised The Guardian for stating Mr Cameron had only ever experience 'privileged pain' despite the death of his son.  

The paper was caught up in a storm of outrage for its response to Mr Cameron's memoirs in which he spoke of the 'darkness' his family plunged into when son Ivan died aged six in 2009. 

In a candid and revealing account, Mr Fogle said he wanted to share his personal pain around child bereavement, adding it 'doesn't matter who you are, the pain of losing a child is like ripping out your heart'. 

Adventurer Ben Fogle, pictured second left with daughter Iona (left), son Ludo (centre), wife Marina (right) and dog Storm has slammed the 'grotesque' Guardian response to David Cameron's memoirs about the ex-prime minister losing his son Ivan

Adventurer Ben Fogle, pictured second left with daughter Iona (left), son Ludo (centre), wife Marina (right) and dog Storm has slammed the 'grotesque' Guardian response to David Cameron's memoirs about the ex-prime minister losing his son Ivan 

Fogle, who lost son William in 2014 when he was stillborn, wrote an open letter on Instagram hitting back at The Guardian saying Mr Cameron had only suffered 'privileged pain'

Fogle, who lost son William in 2014 when he was stillborn, wrote an open letter on Instagram hitting back at The Guardian saying Mr Cameron had only suffered 'privileged pain'

In his open letter, pictured, Mr Fogle added he was 'left reeling' by the Guardian editorial and said it 'relapsed his grief like PTSD'

In his open letter, pictured, Mr Fogle added he was 'left reeling' by the Guardian editorial and said it 'relapsed his grief like PTSD' 

Fogle, 45, who has an older son and daughter, said his grief over the incident 'relapsed like PTSD' when he read the 'despicable' editorial. 

It came after Mr Cameron revealed that his son suffered near-constant seizures from birth - some lasting hours - before succumbing to organ failure shortly before his seventh birthday.

In response to his memoirs, the Guardian's leader column, written by an unnamed senior editor, said: 'Mr Cameron has known pain and failure in his life but it has always been limited failure and privileged pain'.

It added: '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'.

Hitting back, Mr Fogle wrote: '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 their own. I too am privileged and I have also lost a child. Your editorial insinuates that I too only experienced 'privileged pain'.'

Mr Cameron wrote candidly about losing son Ivan, pictured with him in Chipping Norton before his death in 2009 and The Guardian has since apologised for its response

Mr Cameron wrote candidly about losing son Ivan, pictured with him in Chipping Norton before his death in 2009 and The Guardian has since apologised for its response

Mr Fogle has also sent tweets to The Guardian asking for a full apology to 'all parents' who have lost a child

Mr Fogle has also sent tweets to The Guardian asking for a full apology to 'all parents' who have lost a child

Mr Fogle and his wife have two older children - 10-year-old Ludo and eight-year-old Iona, but lost William in 2014. 

Mr Fogle was away from his family at the time and revealed the fear and pain he suffered in his desperate attempts to reach his wife and find out what happened.

In a candid description of the turmoil he went through in 2014, Fogle added: 'There is no privilege in losing a child. 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. 

'There is no privilege in being turned away from a Ryanair flight because I didn't have time to print out a boarding pass and lost my wallet in my haste to get to the hospital.

'There is no privilege in holding your dead son in your arms and having a photo with him. There is no privilege in organising for your sons cremation and the repatriation of his ashes.

David Cameron walks through the village of Chadlington near his Oxfordshire homewith his wife Samantha and children from left Elwen, Nancy and Ivan in 2007 - two years before he died

David Cameron walks through the village of Chadlington near his Oxfordshire homewith his wife Samantha and children from left Elwen, Nancy and Ivan in 2007 - two years before he died

Mr Fogle, pictured with Ludo, Iona and Marina at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2017, said pain was 'universal' and should not be 'politicised'

Mr Fogle, pictured with Ludo, Iona and Marina at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2017, said pain was 'universal' and should not be 'politicised'

'There is no privilege in organising a memorial service and headstone. There is no privilege in holding my tearful wife once a year as she sobs uncontrollably on his birthday.'

He added he was a 'lifelong reader' of the paper but the response had 'left him reeling'.

Mr Fogle said: 'I don't want this to sound angry, but beneath my tears, your editorial has relapsed by grief like PTSD. You have made me feel such rage that I want to punch the editor in the face. 

'As a pacifist, it doesn't make sense to me but the pain of bereavement is inexplicable.

'Unlike your despicable journalism, the pain of bereavement is universal and it is unifying. Unlike the hate you have inflicted, the loss of our son connected us to others who experienced the same terrible, life changing loss, unified by pain.

'Your editorial decision has plumbed the lowest depths of journalism, as a lifelong reader and contributor of The Guardian you have left me reeling. 

'Less hate, more love.' 

The Guardian's leader column has sparked fury with MPs and members of the public lining up to slam the newspaper

The Guardian's leader column has sparked fury with MPs and members of the public lining up to slam the newspaper

Mr Fogle also slammed the paper for 'politicising pain' and said losing a child was the same for anyone regardless of their beliefs.

He added: 'It may suit your left-wing politics to believe we shed red, blue, black or green blood, but we don't.

'We all bleed red (which I think you'll agree is an ironically appropriate colour).

'There is no politics, economics, social inequality, race, class nor gender in the pain of child bereavement.

'To politicise it is deeply offensive to everyone who has experienced it.'

The Guardian opinion piece was published in the newspaper on Monday before 'privileged pain' was deleted completely from later editions. It was also amended online after an uproar over the use of the phrase. 

WHAT IS OHTAHARA SYNDROME?

Ohtahara syndrome is a rare complication of epilepsy, affecting just one in 500 sufferers, and boys more than girls.

It is caused by an underlying structural brain abnormality which may have a genetic origin or is the result of brain damage.

It is rarely an inherited disorder and it is thought only four families in the world have two affected children.

Seizures start before the baby is three months old. Most die before the age of three, often due to chest infections or pneumonia.

A phenomenon known as sudden unexplained death in epilepsy is also a constant fear.

Babies with Ohtahara syndrome - first described 30 years ago - are often very floppy, excessively sleepy and over time develop stiffness in their limbs.

Medication has limited effect and the children make little developmental progress, being totally dependent on others.

They often feed poorly and their sleep is punctuated by seizures and muscle spasms - between ten and 300 every 24 hours, which make round-the-clock care a necessity.

A spokesman for the newspaper issued an apology and said: 'The original version of this editorial posted online fell far short of our standards. It has now been amended, and we apologise completely' - but did not say sorry directly to Mr Cameron.  

The newspaper came under fire and was accused of lacking 'humanity' and 'empathy' for the plight of Ivan Cameron and his bereft family.

Chancellor Sajid Javid wrote: 'Shameful thing to read, Guardian. Never has an editorial so lacked in empathy, while so righteously criticising others for lacking it'.

Tory MP Zac Goldsmith said: 'These aren't just the ugly thoughts of a maverick columnist. These are the words of the actual Guardian editorial. It is their corporate view.'   

New Lib Dem MP Angela Smith said the Guardian's words were 'entirely inappropriate' and 'must have been very hurtful to David Cameron'. 

While Piers Morgan tweeted: Disgusting & shameful by The Guardian. They owe Cameron a public apology'.

Mr Cameron wrote poignantly about their final moments with their eldest child, as they held him in hospital after medics stopped treatment while the six-year-old succumbed to organ failure.

He said: 'Nothing, absolutely nothing, can prepare you for the reality of losing your darling boy in this way. It was as if the world stopped turning.'

The former Tory leader added: 'It was a torture that I can hardly bear to remember. For Samantha, the mother who bore him and who loved him so deeply, it was a torture that was tearing her apart.'

Ivan was born with Ohtahara syndrome, a rare condition which left him with severe epilepsy and development problems. He died in 2009.

Mr Cameron said the diagnosis had been an 'immense shock and challenge'. He admitted the difficulty of caring for a profoundly disabled child had taken his marriage 'near to breaking point'.

He wrote: 'My friends say that the experience of having Ivan and helping to care for him changed me a lot. I am sure they are right.'

After Ivan's death, when Mr Cameron was leader of the Opposition, prime minister Gordon Brown led tributes and adjourned the Commons for the day. 

Mr Cameron said he had been moved by the gesture, but said the days before Ivan's funeral were a 'blur', adding: 'There was nothing but darkness for us.'

Ben Fogle's open letter in full 

PAIN

'Dear Guardian Newspaper

'I wanted to share with you my experience of pain. The pain of child bereavement in particular.

'You see, despite the geopolitical 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.

'A part of you, blood and flesh, is gone. it is unspeakable, intolerable and unforgettable. It may suit your left-wing politics to believe we shed red, blue, black or green blood, but we don't.

'We all bleed red (which I think you'll agree is an ironically appropriate colour).

'There is no politics, economics, social inequality, race, class nor gender in the pain of child bereavement.

'To politicise it is deeply offensive to everyone who has experienced it.

'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 their 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 losing a child. 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. 

'There is no privilege in being turned away from a Ryanair flight because I didn't have time to print out a boarding pass and lost my wallet in my haste to get to the hospital.

'There is no privilege in holding your dead son in your arms and having a photo with him. There is no privilege in organising for your sons cremation and the repatriation of his ashes.

'There is no privilege in organising a memorial service and headstone. There is no privilege in holding my tearful wife once a year as she sobs uncontrollably on his birthday.

'I don't want this to sound angry, but beneath my tears, your editorial has relapsed by grief like PTSD. You have made me feel such rage that I want to punch the editor in the face. 

'As a pacifist, it doesn't make sense to me but the pain of bereavement is inexplicable.

'Unlike your despicable journalism, the pain of bereavement is universal and it is unifying. Unlike the hate you have inflicted, the loss of our son connected us to others who experienced the same terrible, life changing loss, unified by pain.

'Your editorial decision has plumbed the lowest depths of journalism, as a lifelong reader and contributor of The Guardian you have left me reeling. 

'Less hate, more love.'  

Ben Fogle slams 'grotesque' Guardian article on David Cameron's pain

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