It's every parent's nightmare: To get home from an event and realize that a child is missing. But it can turn out to be a political minefield as well if you also happen to be the prime minister.
British Prime Minister David Cameron’s office confirmed June 11 that he accidentally left his 8-year-old daughter Nancy in a country pub after a family Sunday lunch.
The incident sparked a debate in Britain about Cameron’s parenting and comes only a few weeks after the government set up a program to give parents of young children classes in how to raise them. The incident also highlighted a sharp contrast with the United States, where it is nearly inconceivable that a similar mistake would have been made with one of President Barack Obama’s daughters.
On the popular British parenting website Mumsnet, some people said the mistake was "easily done" while others wondered why the Camerons had not kept a closer watch on their young daughter.
Downing Street said the incident happened "a couple of months ago" as the family was leaving the pub near Chequers, the official country house prime ministers use while in office. Sunday pub lunches are a long traditional in Britain, often including roast beef, potatoes, Yorkshire pudding and salad along with red wine, beer or ale.
Nancy had gone to the bathroom while Cameron and the rest of the family piled into two cars to drive back to the house west of London.
Cameron was travelling in one car with his bodyguards and assumed that Nancy was in the other car with his wife Samantha and their two other children. Samantha assumed Nancy was with her father, and they only realized she was missing when they got home.
A spokeswoman for Cameron, who spoke on customary condition of anonymity in line with policy, said "the prime minister and Samantha were distraught when they realized Nancy wasn’t with them. Thankfully when they phoned the pub she was there safe and well."
Nancy was separated from her parents for around 15 minutes until Cameron arrived to collect her from The Plough in the village of Cadsden, she added.
The spokeswoman declined to say whether Cameron’s security detail had erred in their duties, insisting that Cameron and his wife took responsibility for the incident.
However, she said that security arrangements for the leader and his family are kept under review.
"They are their children and they take responsibility for them," she said. "No one is going to face disciplinary action. This was an error."
She explained that Cameron and his wife had visited the pub with a group of friends and their children for lunch.
"He had gone with friends at lunchtime, with a number of families with children, and they left in various different vehicles," she said. "The prime minister is a very busy man but he always tries to live as normal a life as possible with his family."
The incident was first reported in Rupert Murdoch’s tabloid newspaper The Sun in the week that Cameron is due to give evidence at Britain’s media ethics inquiry. Cameron himself set up the inquiry in the wake of revelations that reporters at another Murdoch tabloid, News of the World, had hacked into the voicemails of public figures, sports stars and even ordinary people in their search for scoops.
It comes a few weeks after a biography of Cameron by Francis Elliott and James Hanning described how he liked to relax by having "three or four glasses of wine" with his Sunday lunch.