Priti Patel dismisses David Cameron Brexit attack saying ‘there is no point in going over the past’

Home Secretary Priti Patel dismissed criticism from David Cameron over her role in the Brexit referendum campaign today, telling the former prime minister ‘There is no point in going over the past’.

Mr Cameron has been scathing about the comments made on immigration by the then employment minister in the run-up to the June 2016 vote, saying they left him shocked.

In his autobiography, being serialised in the Times, he accused her of using ‘every announcement, interview and speech’ to ‘hammer’ the government’s approach to immigration, even though she was in it. 

But he said that he was ‘stuck’ with her in his administration because if he fired her she would become a ‘Brexit martyr’. 

Ms Patel refused to be dawn into a row over the accusations today.

Asked about the criticism on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show she said she had ‘enjoyed’ working with the prime minister.

‘Obviously the referendum has happened, we have moved on and the fact of the matter is we are now working to deliver that referendum mandate,’ she said.

Appearing on the Andrew Marr programme today Ms Patel said: 'The referendum has happened, we have moved on'

Appearing on the Andrew Marr programme today Ms Patel said: 'The referendum has happened, we have moved on'

Appearing on the Andrew Marr programme today Ms Patel said: ‘The referendum has happened, we have moved on’

David Cameron has revealed in his autobiography that Ms Patel had shocked him by her immigration stance but he did not want to fire her and create a 'Brexit martyr'.

David Cameron has revealed in his autobiography that Ms Patel had shocked him by her immigration stance but he did not want to fire her and create a 'Brexit martyr'.

David Cameron has revealed in his autobiography that Ms Patel had shocked him by her immigration stance but he did not want to fire her and create a ‘Brexit martyr’.

‘That is so important. There is no point in going over the past.’ 

Ms Patel, the London-born daughter of Ugandan Asian parents, has had an upturn in fortune under Boris Johnson. 

She was appointed as a hardline Home Secretary by Boris Johnson, having been sacked as international development secretary by Theresa May over undeclared meetings with Israeli politicians. 

Speaking to the Daily Mail about mass immigration in March 2016, just weeks before the referendum, she said: ‘We’ve become too tolerant. We’ve just sat back and accepted it.’

Asked about the criticism on the BBC's Andrew Marr show she said she had 'enjoyed' working with the prime minister

Asked about the criticism on the BBC's Andrew Marr show she said she had 'enjoyed' working with the prime minister

Asked about the criticism on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show she said she had ‘enjoyed’ working with the prime minister

Pressed by Andrew Mar this morning on Mr Cameron’s criticism she added: ‘If we talk about the issues we are now speaking about in terms of delivering Brexit, many of those issues went to the heart of the vote to leave in 2016. 

‘Whether it was taking back control of our borders, our laws, our money, those issues are still prevalent to the debates and the discussion today. 

‘And the reality is that it is the job of this government – Conservative government – to deliver on effectively what was a 2015 manifesto commitment as well to give the referendum’.

Mr Cameron also took aim at another high-profile Leave campaigner, the former defence secretary Penny Mordaunt, over comments she made abut the UK not being able to veto Turkish membership of the European Union.

He said that the remarks went beyond ‘stretching the truth’ into ‘ditching it altogether’, adding: ‘Leave was lying’. 

A glum-looking David Cameron and George Osborne in the Commons in April 2016, two months before they lost the referendum

A glum-looking David Cameron and George Osborne in the Commons in April 2016, two months before they lost the referendum

A glum-looking David Cameron and George Osborne in the Commons in April 2016, two months before they lost the referendum

The issue of Turkish membership of the EU was used by the Leave side in the referendum, including this advert launched by then Ukip leader Nigel Farage

The issue of Turkish membership of the EU was used by the Leave side in the referendum, including this advert launched by then Ukip leader Nigel Farage

The issue of Turkish membership of the EU was used by the Leave side in the referendum, including this advert launched by then Ukip leader Nigel Farage

It followed on from admitting he failed to follow advice from George Osborne to demonise Boris Johnson and Michael Gove over claims about Turkey, which were played up by the Leave camp.

The campaign claimed Turkey was due to join the EU, seen by opponents as an attempt to whip up anti-Muslim sentiment. 

The ex-prime minister revealed that his former chancellor and right-hand man had urged him ‘destroy their credibility’ as leaders of the Leave campaign, saying they were ‘killing’ his leadership.

Mr Cameron accused Mr Gove of changing from a ‘liberal-minded, carefully considered Conservative intellectual to a ‘foam-flecked Faragist – a reference to Nigel Farage who has also warned about Turkish entry in a billboard advert. 

He said they were ‘blatant’ in choosing a Muslim country which ‘piqued fears about Islamism, mass migration and the transformation of communities’. 

Tennis and fireside Chequers chats: how David Cameron tried to win over Boris Johnson and Michael Gove 

David Cameron desperately tried to woo Boris Johnson into backing Remain after a private tennis date, offering him a senior Cabinet post and a chance to follow him into Downing Street, his memoir reveals.

The former prime minister told how he offered to make the Eurosceptic defence secretary after a match at the US ambassador’s private court, telling him that ‘I’m not going to be prime minister forever’ and ‘you’ve got every opportunity to win’ a leadership battle against George Osborne.

Mr Cameron also told how he tried to woo Michael Gove via a fireside chat with his wife during a New Year’s Eve party at his country home, Chequers – saying he was assured the then Justice Secretary would be on his side.

But his attempts with both men were doomed to failure.

A flurry of text exchanges with Mr Johnson followed their tennis match, Mr Cameron revealed, as Mr Johnson asked about getting clarity about British law trumping EU law.

But Mr Cameron claimed it was clear the then backbench MP was mainly interested in ‘what was the best outcome for him’, adding; ‘He risked an outcome he didn’t believe in because it would help his political career’.

He was even more shocked by the behaviour of ‘close confidant’ Mr Gove.

According to the autobiography, at a meeting in Downing Street Mr Gove revealed ‘my head is in a strange place’, but pledged to limit his activity to ‘one speech’ if he did decide to back Brexit.

Mr Gove went on to co-chair the Leave campaign.

David Cameron blasts ‘lying’ Leave leaders: Ex-PM says Boris Johnson ‘didn’t believe’ in Brexit and suggested a second referendum, while Michael Gove is a ‘foam-flecked Faragist’ who is an ‘ambassador for truth-twisting populism

David Cameron blasted his Tory successor Boris Johnson today, accusing the Prime Minister of being a fake Brexiteer who only backed Leave to further his political ambition.

Cameron ‘delighted’ by the Queen’s controversial intervention in Scots independence vote

David Cameron was ‘delighted’ when the Queen made a dramatic and controversial intervention in the Scottish independence campaign, his memoir reveals today.

The monarch made a surprise plea to Scots to ‘think very carefully’ about how they would vote, just a week before the September 2014 referendum.

The No campaign went on to win the vote 55 per cent to 45 per cent.

In his new book Mr Cameron talked about visiting the ‘completely charming’ Queen at her Scottish estate, Balmoral, a week earlier, were she and the Duke of Edinburgh ‘gingerly asked questions’ about the vote without expressing ‘too strong an opinion’.

His visit coincided with a poll which found a ‘yes’ vote for independence was leading in the polls.

Mr Cameron (pictured with the Queen in 2010) said he was delighted when she spoke out about the Scottish independence referendum, which he was in danger of losing 

But just a week later the Queen walked over to a 40-strong crowd of well-wishers at Crathie Kirk in response to one who had shouted out about the referendum.

She then told a member of the public: ‘I hope everybody thinks very carefully about the referendum this week.’

Mr Cameron wrote of this intervention: ‘I was delighted’.

The former leader, who quit after leading the failed Remain campaign in 2016, also lashed out at Michael Gove, who co-led Vote Leave, labelling his former close friend a ‘foam-flecked Faragist’.

In extracts from his autobiography, serialised in the Sunday Times, Mr Cameron tore into Mr Johnson saying he ‘didn’t believe’ in Brexit and had privately claimed there could be a ‘fresh renegotiation, followed by a second referendum’ – which he now says he opposes. 

And Mr Cameron accused the leaders of the Leave campaign of declaring ‘open warfare’ on him – and claimed they were guilty of ‘lying’ to the public to win the 2016 referendum.  

As well as the ministers he also tore into Dominic Cummings, the brains behind the Leave campaign and now a senior adviser to Mr Johnson in No 10, along with Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage, then of Ukip.

He described them as part of a ‘cauldron of toxicity’ who had ‘something of the night about them’. 

Mr Cameron’s bitter criticism comes as Mr Johnson warned Brussels that Britain will break out of its ‘manacles’ like The Incredible Hulk if a Brexit deal cannot be struck by October 31.

In an exclusive interview with The Mail on Sunday, the Prime Minister said that if negotiations break down, he will ignore the Commons vote ordering him to delay the UK’s departure, adding: ‘The madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets.’

His bullish declaration comes ahead of a crunch meeting tomorrow with European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker.

In fresh extracts from his controversial book, and in a stunning blue-on-blue rant, Mr Cameron claimed:

  • Boris Johnson privately said there could be a second referendum following fresh Brussels negotiations;
  • The current PM had never ‘believed’ in Brexit but joined Vote Leave to help secure the keys to No10;
  • Michael Gove appeared to ape Nigel Farage by campaigning against immigration despite his liberal background, becoming a ‘foam-flecked Faragist’ during the referendum, despite promising Mr Cameron he would only pay a minor role in the battle;
  • That he felt personal failings for the result after failing to publicly promise to block Turkey from joining the EU – a high-profile campaign issue in 2016;
  • That Mr Johnson’s current Downing Street chief Dominic Cummings had ‘something of the night about him’ and was a ‘cauldron of toxicity’.
  • That he under-estimated the ‘latent Leaver gene’ in Tory MPs  including Priti Patel and Liz Truss  

Mr Cameron wrote that the now-Prime Minister wanted to become the ‘darling of the party’ and ‘didn’t want to risk allowing someone else with a high profile – Michael Gove in particular – to win that crown’.

‘The conclusion I am left with is that he risked an outcome he didn’t believe in because it would help his political career.’

On Mr Gove, the former PM said: ‘One quality shone through: disloyalty. Disloyalty to me and, later, disloyalty to Boris.’

And he said Mr Gove’s claim that the public were tired of experts made him ‘an ambassador for the truth-twisting age of populism’.

‘By the end, Boris and Michael seemed to me to be different people. Boris had backed something he didn’t believe in.

‘Michael had backed something he did perhaps believe in, but in the process had broken with his friends … while taking up positions that were completely against his political identity.

David Cameron has launched another stinging attack on Boris Johnson, claiming the Prime Minister 'didn't believe' in Brexit and only backed the Leave campaign to boost his career

David Cameron has launched another stinging attack on Boris Johnson, claiming the Prime Minister 'didn't believe' in Brexit and only backed the Leave campaign to boost his career

David Cameron has launched another stinging attack on Boris Johnson, claiming the Prime Minister ‘didn’t believe’ in Brexit and only backed the Leave campaign to boost his career

‘Both then behaved appallingly, attacking their own government, turning a blind eye to their side’s unpleasant actions and becoming ambassadors for the expert-trashing, truth-twisting age of populism.’

While Mr Cameron attacked his rival Mr Johnson as ‘guilty of lying’ during the ‘open warfare’ of the referendum campaign, book extracts published by The Sunday Times show the ex-Premier reserving most venom for Mr Gove.

Chronicling their Brexit fallout and his later stabbing of Mr Johnson in the back, Mr Cameron accused his former friend of having ‘one quality’ that ‘shone through: disloyalty. ‘Disloyalty to me and, later, disloyalty to Boris.’

And despite repeated denials from Mr Johnson regarding his support for a rerun of the Brexit vote, Mr Cameron stated that Johnson had privately said ‘there could always be a fresh renegotiation, followed by a second referendum.’

Last night allies of the Prime Minister rejected the claim.  

Concluding his attack, the ex-Premier said: ‘By the end, Boris and Michael seemed to me to be different people.

‘Boris had baked something he didn’t believe in. Michael had backed something he did perhaps publicly veto backed something he did perhaps believe in, but in the process had broken with his friends while taking up positions that were completely against his identity.’ 

The Conservative former prime minister said Mr Johnson privately claimed there could be a 'fresh renegotiation, followed by a second referendum' - which he now opposes

The Conservative former prime minister said Mr Johnson privately claimed there could be a 'fresh renegotiation, followed by a second referendum' - which he now opposes

The Conservative former prime minister said Mr Johnson privately claimed there could be a ‘fresh renegotiation, followed by a second referendum’ – which he now opposes

As well as turning on his successors and former friends in his long-awaited tome, Mr Cameron also saved some criticism for his own bungling of the historic 2016 referendum fight.

Cameron ‘delighted’ by the Queen’s controversial intervention in Scots independence vote

David Cameron was ‘delighted’ when the Queen made a dramatic and controversial intervention in the Scottish independence campaign, his memoir reveals today.

The monarch made a surprise plea to Scots to ‘think very carefully’ about how they would vote, just a week before the September 2014 referendum.

The No campaign went on to win the vote 55 per cent to 45 per cent.

In his new book Mr Cameron talked about visiting the ‘completely charming’ Queen at her Scottish estate, Balmoral, a week earlier, were she and the Duke of Edinburgh ‘gingerly asked questions’ about the vote without expressing ‘too strong an opinion’.

His visit coincided with a poll which found a ‘yes’ vote for independence was leading in the polls.

Mr Cameron (pictured with the Queen in 2010) said he was delighted when she spoke out about the Scottish independence referendum, which he was in danger of losing 

But just a week later the Queen walked over to a 40-strong crowd of well-wishers at Crathie Kirk in response to one who had shouted out about the referendum.

She then told a member of the public: ‘I hope everybody thinks very carefully about the referendum this week.’

Mr Cameron wrote of this intervention: ‘I was delighted’.

Asked what he regretted, he claimed he could have publicly announced that he would veto Turkey’s accession to the EU at the height of the campaign after Leave backers made the entry of 76 million Turks a central plank of their messaging.

The Mail on Sunday has discovered that Mr Cameron has assured some of the 21 former Tory MPs kicked out after voting against the new Prime Minister that he would help them try to keep their seats in the Commons, even if it means pounding the streets of their constituencies with them against a Tory candidate.

The revelation risks further souring relations between Mr Cameron and Mr Johnson, after Downing Street ordered Ministers not to attack the former PM in a bid to ‘rise above’ the memoirs row.

Mr Cameron provoked anger after claiming the referendum ‘had turned into this terrible Tory psychodrama’. Brexiteer and former Cabinet Minister Peter Lilley savaged the claim, saying that the 17.4million people who voted for Brexit did not ‘care a fig about Tory psychodramas’.

The Tory peer told the BBC that Leave voters had ‘put aside party loyalties and voted on the issue’. And hitting back at claims that Mr Cameron regretted the referendum result, Lord Lilley added the former PM had once said, ‘When the British people speak, their voice will be respected, not ignored’ but ‘now he’s saying different things’.

Mr Cameron also faced anger from supporters of Mr Gove.

He chronicles in detail his decision to sack him as Education Secretary in 2014. However, a Whitehall veteran from the Cameron era hit out: ‘If it were not for Mr Gove’s education reforms, you could make the case that Mr Cameron’s legacy in government was pretty thin.’

The former Prime Minister also tore into Boris and Michael Gove over their conduct during the EU referendum

The former Prime Minister also tore into Boris and Michael Gove over their conduct during the EU referendum

The former Prime Minister also tore into Boris and Michael Gove over their conduct during the EU referendum

It's the latest barrage of comments from Mr Cameron, with the former leader also branding Brexiteer Michael Gove, who was once a close friend, a 'foam-flecked Faragist'

It's the latest barrage of comments from Mr Cameron, with the former leader also branding Brexiteer Michael Gove, who was once a close friend, a 'foam-flecked Faragist'

It’s the latest barrage of comments from Mr Cameron, with the former leader also branding Brexiteer Michael Gove, who was once a close friend, a ‘foam-flecked Faragist’

Despite the Government saying Britain must be prepared for a No Deal Brexit, Mr Cameron (pictured with his wife last year) said he opposed leaving without an agreement

Despite the Government saying Britain must be prepared for a No Deal Brexit, Mr Cameron (pictured with his wife last year) said he opposed leaving without an agreement

Despite the Government saying Britain must be prepared for a No Deal Brexit, Mr Cameron (pictured with his wife last year) said he opposed leaving without an agreement

Mr Cameron accused Mr Johnson (pictured together in 2012) of blundering in his short time at No 10. He cited 'sharp practices' such as the decision to prorogue Parliament, and condemned the expulsion of 21 rebel Tory MPs

Mr Cameron accused Mr Johnson (pictured together in 2012) of blundering in his short time at No 10. He cited 'sharp practices' such as the decision to prorogue Parliament, and condemned the expulsion of 21 rebel Tory MPs

Mr Cameron accused Mr Johnson (pictured together in 2012) of blundering in his short time at No 10. He cited ‘sharp practices’ such as the decision to prorogue Parliament, and condemned the expulsion of 21 rebel Tory MPs

Mr Cameron tells how he sent Mr Gove (pictured together in 2015) a text message saying: ‘You are either a team player or a w*****’ as he resisted being moved from education secretary to chief whip in 2014

Mr Cameron tells how he sent Mr Gove (pictured together in 2015) a text message saying: ‘You are either a team player or a w*****’ as he resisted being moved from education secretary to chief whip in 2014

Mr Cameron tells how he sent Mr Gove (pictured together in 2015) a text message saying: ‘You are either a team player or a w*****’ as he resisted being moved from education secretary to chief whip in 2014

David Cameron has revealed his deep personal anguish over the EU referendum and its aftermath (he is pictured resigning as Prime Minister outside Downing Street in 2016)

David Cameron has revealed his deep personal anguish over the EU referendum and its aftermath (he is pictured resigning as Prime Minister outside Downing Street in 2016)

David Cameron has revealed his deep personal anguish over the EU referendum and its aftermath (he is pictured resigning as Prime Minister outside Downing Street in 2016)

From maggots in food to naked baths in front of the headmaster: How David Cameron’s brutal prep school in the 1970s featured regular beatings 

Regular beatings, maggots in the food, and naked baths in front of a pipe-smoking headmaster.

They may sound like moments from a brutal Victorian childhood but they are, in fact, among the memories of life at a prep school in the 1970s, as revealed by David Cameron in his memoirs.

In his new book, serialised in The Times, the former Prime Minister describes Heatherdown Preparatory School as an austere establishment – even by the standards of the time.

Austere times: David Cameron (centre) at Heatherdown Preparatory School in 1976. Mr Cameron attended the Berkshire school between the ages of seven and 13

Austere times: David Cameron (centre) at Heatherdown Preparatory School in 1976. Mr Cameron attended the Berkshire school between the ages of seven and 13

Austere times: David Cameron (centre) at Heatherdown Preparatory School in 1976. Mr Cameron attended the Berkshire school between the ages of seven and 13

He writes: ‘The food was spartan. I lost a stone in weight during a single term. There was one meal that consisted of curry, rice – and maggots.

‘At bath time we had to line up naked in front of a row of Victorian metal baths and wait for the headmaster, James Edwards, to blow a whistle before we got in.

‘Another whistle would indicate that it was time to get out. In between we would have to cope with clouds of smoke from the omnipresent foul-smelling pipe clenched between his teeth.’

Mr Cameron attended the Berkshire school between the ages of seven and 13. He left for Eton College in 1979.

As Prime Minister, Mr Cameron’s confident displays at the Dispatch Box earned him the nickname ‘Flashman’ – the fictional Victorian public-school bully and coward from Tom Brown’s Schooldays.

Yet in his book For The Record, which goes on sale this week, he depicts himself starting school as an uncertain and tearful child. 

Plagued by homesickness at first, Mr Cameron would lie in his bed crying while gazing into a plastic cube containing photographs of his family.

While his father was ‘pretty phlegmatic’ at sending his son away at such a young age, ‘Mum was torn, and later admitted that she only coped after waving me goodbye on the first day by taking a large dose of Valium.’

Despite being a small school of fewer than 100 boys, Heatherdown attracted the cream of the British elite – including Princes Andrew and Edward. 

It was where a young Cameron had his first encounter with the Queen, which ended in disaster when he swore in church. ‘I was asked to read one of the lessons at our carol service – Isaiah, I think – and Her Majesty was in the front row.

‘I did OK, but crucially forgot to say ‘Thanks be to God’ at the end.

‘I remembered as I stepped away from the lectern, started to turn back, then realised it was too late to go back, panicked, and said, ‘Oh s***’.’

Prince Edward and the Duke of Bedford were ‘dorm captains’ at the time Mr Cameron attended the school.

He recalls being ‘madly jealous’ that his elder brother Alex once ate breakfast on the Queen’s bed at Windsor Castle after being invited by his classmate Edward.

Heatherdown, which closed in 1982, was renowned for its academic and sporting excellence. 

Discipline was harsh, and Mr Cameron recalls regular beatings with the smooth side of an ebony clothes brush. 

He writes: ‘If I shut my eyes I can see myself standing outside the headmaster’s study, hearing the ticking of the grandfather clock and the thwack of the clothes brush on the backside of the boy in front of me, and feeling the dread of what was to follow.’

In the months ahead of the 2010 General Election, the then Tory leader faced accusations of being ‘Dave the dunce’ at the school. 

However, it was subsequently revealed that teachers had marked him out as ‘very bright’ and had moved him up at the age of 11, which meant he was competing against boys two years his senior.

‘It was as if the world stopped turning’: David Cameron says ‘nothing could prepare him’ for his son Ivan dying aged six as he recalls emotional ‘torture’

Former Prime Minister David Cameron said that ‘nothing could have prepared him’ for the death of his son at the age of six, which he described as ‘torture’.

Mr Cameron, whose son Ivan suffered from a rare neurological disorder, said losing his first-born child felt ‘as if the world had stopped turning’.

Writing candidly about the devastating family tragedy in extracts of his memoir serialised in the Sunday Times, the former Conservative leader said he can ‘hardly bear to remember’ those dark times.

Mr Cameron, whose son Ivan suffered from a rare neurological disorder, said losing his first-born child was 'as if the world had stopped turning'

Mr Cameron, whose son Ivan suffered from a rare neurological disorder, said losing his first-born child was 'as if the world had stopped turning'

Mr Cameron, whose son Ivan suffered from a rare neurological disorder, said losing his first-born child was ‘as if the world had stopped turning’

‘Nothing, absolutely nothing, can prepare you for the reality of losing your darling boy this way’, he wrote.  

He said his wife Samantha – ‘the mother who loved him deeply’ – was ‘torn apart’ by his tragic death after struggling with Ivan’s diagnosis and bouts of seizures. 

Ivan was born a healthy boy, but by his second week he was rapidly losing weight and making jerky movements.

He was eventually diagnosed with Ohtahara syndrome – a rare neurological disorder characterised by seizures. He died in 2006.

The former Prime Minister said his condition had brought him and his wife Samantha ‘close to collapse’.

‘A world in which things had always gone right for me suddenly gave me an immense shock and challenge,’ he said.           

The former Prime Minister said his condition had brought him and his wife Samantha 'close to collapse'

The former Prime Minister said his condition had brought him and his wife Samantha 'close to collapse'

The former Prime Minister said his condition had brought him and his wife Samantha ‘close to collapse’

The former MP for Witney previously revealed how Ivan was forced to undergo dozens of often painful and invasive tests before doctors knew he had Ohtahara syndrome.

Managing Ivan’s condition was an intensive process and he was given as many as 20 different drugs a day. There were regular emergencies caused by seizures, infections and changes in his blood pressure.

In both 2002 and 2003, Mr Cameron had to abandon the Tory party conference because Ivan was in hospital. 

Mr Cameron and Samantha are parents to three children, Nancy, 15, Arthur, 13, and nine-year-old Florence.

Mr Cameron said new and advanced genomic testing could end the anguish of uncertainty for parents of children with such rare neurological disorders. 

He was eventually diagnosed with Ohtahara syndrome - a rare neurological disorder characterised by seizures

He was eventually diagnosed with Ohtahara syndrome - a rare neurological disorder characterised by seizures

He was eventually diagnosed with Ohtahara syndrome – a rare neurological disorder characterised by seizures

In an interview with the Times in 2018, he said : ‘Different treatments are tried, some with excruciating and potentially damaging side-effects. Huge efforts are being made on your child’s behalf, but no one knows exactly what is wrong or how to make it right.

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.

‘In many cases the doctor is unlikely to have seen a patient with the same condition before. They are left to rely on intuition and antiquated tests to determine which of the 7,000 rare diseases may be affecting the child.

‘This gruelling process can go on for months, even years. If a correct diagnosis is eventually made it is often too late to undo critical damage that has already been done to the child’s development.

‘Yet we are on the brink of a huge breakthrough. Instead of looking at individual chromosomes [through genome sequencing]  we can sequence the whole genome, determining the unique ordering of three billion letters found in almost every cell in a person’s body. Rather than testing one disease at a time, this process simultaneously can test for all rare diseases, 80 per cent of which are genetically based. All it takes is a blood test. It is that simple.’       

Though Ivan’s condition meant he could not move his limbs or speak, the Camerons drew strength from the fact that he appeared to respond to their love and care.

‘Ivan’s only self-conscious movements are to raise his eyebrows and to smile,’ Mr Cameron said in 2004. ‘And his smile – slightly crooked, sometimes accompanied by a little moan – can light up a room. It never fails to make me both happy and immensely proud of him.’

But asked once if he thought Ivan enjoyed his life, he replied: ‘Oh, not really, I think his life’s very tough.’ 

Mr Cameron added: ‘We were all devoted to Ivan and as a family we still talk about him all the time today.’

 

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