I THINK it was right that Prime Minister's Questions were suspended on Wednesday following the death of Ivan, the young son of David and Samantha Cameron. It would have been eerie to listen to the deputies, William Hague and Harriet Harman, going through the motions when the thoughts of most MP's would have been with the stricken parents. At the same time, however, I think it was wrong to put in the place of PMQ's a kind of memorial service for Ivan. The Speaker of the House actually used the phrase “as a mark of respect for Ivan” when suggesting, after the tributes had been paid, that the House of Commons should suspend its sitting and leave its chamber empty for twenty minutes.

There is no doubt that the words spoken by Gordon Brown, William Hague and Vince Cable were deeply felt, eloquent and moving. But they were also indicative of the way in which private emotion increasingly intrudes on every aspect of public life in Britain today. Some people may think that is a good thing but others will feel it is undesirable. The tributes spoken in the cockpit of the Commons on Wednesday would be better heard at an appropriate time in a less tradition-laden setting. There was no precedent for Wednesday's event (except in the case of the death of John Smith who was a member of the House) and it may prove to be difficult to know in future how to respond to any comparable occasion.