Muted MPs stand by PMQs decision

By Alex Stevenson

A muted Westminster is displaying complete sympathy with opposition leader David Cameron.

Shortly before tributes to the Conservative leader’s six-year-old son Ivan are made in the Commons chamber MPs in the Palace of Westminster were universally supportive of the Cameron family.

“I think it’s very, very sad,” Liberal Democrat shadow leader of the House David Heath told politics.co.uk.

He predicted the news would “almost inevitably” mute the usual party politics in the Commons today, adding: “One of the strong points about our parliament is the way MPs do take into account the feelings of others in difficult times.”

Labour backbencher Jim McGovern agreed, saying Mr Cameron would have struggled to think about PMQs in the circumstances.

“Any death in the family is pretty difficult – especially when it’s a child,” he said.

“I think people will always recognise when any family in crisis, and of course the underlying thing is to pull together. That’s why everyone has huge amounts of sympathy.”

Lib Dem Alistair Carmichael agreed that setting party politics aside was the right thing to do in the circumstances.

“As a parent myself I can only imagine what it must be like for David Cameron and his family. It’s difficult to feel anything other than great sympathy for them,” he said.

“It occasionally takes things like this for us to put things into their proper perspective.”

Conservative MPs displayed more immediate emotion to the news, however.

When asked whether prime minister Gordon Brown was doing the right thing by cancelling PMQs, one told politics.co.uk: “Yes, to a degree. It’s one of those things you can argue both ways. The prime minister offered it, and we said yes.”

Another described the incident as a “private matter” and refused to comment.

John Bercow, the member for Buckingham, insisted speaker Michael Martin had got it right when he decided to suspend the sitting “as a mark of respect to Ivan”.

“We can have our arguments – there’s plenty of time for that – but rather than battle it out on this day [suspending the sitting] was absolutely the right thing to do.”

“I greatly admired what Gordon Brown, William Hague and Vince Cable had to say. The silence [in the Commons] was a mark of respect and [showed] people’s sense of shared empathy.”