LONDON - It is 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 happen to be the prime minister.
David Cameron’s office confirmed Monday that the prime minister accidentally left his 8-year-old daughter, Nancy, in a country pub after a Sunday afternoon visit this spring.
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.
It also highlighted a sharp contrast with security procedures in the United States, where it is nearly inconceivable that a similar mistake would have been made with one of President Obama’s daughters. US Secret Service agents routinely guard the president’s immediate family when they are out in public.
Nancy was separated from her parents for around 15 minutes until Cameron arrived to collect her from The Plough in the village of Cadsden.
In Britain, it is common for people to see the prime minister shopping for groceries and other items on weekends, although it is difficult to tell whether he is being watched by plainclothes agents.
Cameron’s office confirmed that there “are security arrangements in place for the prime minister’s family,’’ but declined to provide any details on the type of protection provided or the number of personnel assigned to the leader’s wife and children.
“We do not comment on the prime minister’s security arrangements,’’ said a spokeswoman for Cameron, who spoke on customary condition of anonymity in line with policy. She confirmed that no member of Cameron’s security detail had been judged to have made any mistakes in allowing Nancy to be left at the pub.
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 used by prime ministers
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.