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David Cameron's tribute to his dad

David Cameron greets his father Ian Photo: Johnny Green/PA Wire

David Cameron revealed the inspiration he drew from his "eternal optimist" father Ian in a deeply personal passage in his conference speech today. The Prime Minister's father died aged 77 following a stroke while on holiday in France in 2010, just four months after his son entered Downing Street.

The Conservative leader told activists at his party's conference in Birmingham that his father "influenced me much more than I ever thought". Ian Cameron was born in 1932 with both legs shortened below the knee and his feet twisted. He endured numerous operations to ease his pain, and eventually both limbs had to be amputated.

But despite his disability - and later losing the sight in one eye - he still forged a successful career as a stockbroker. After moving to England from Scotland as a child, he married Mary and the couple raised four children at the family home in Peasemore, Berkshire.

The Prime Minister said: "It's only when your dad's gone that you realise not just how much you really miss them but how much you really owe them. "My dad influenced me much more than I ever thought. He was born with no heels on his feet and legs about a foot shorter than they're meant to be.

"But he never complained, even when he lost both those legs later in life. Because disability in the 1930s was such a stigma, he was an only child. Probably a lonely child.But Dad was the eternal optimist. To him the glass was always half-full.Usually with something alcoholic in it."

"When I was a boy I remember once going on a long walk with him in the village where we lived, passing the church he supported and the village hall where he took part in interminable parish council meetings. I asked him what he was most proud of. It was simple - working hard from the moment he left school and providing a good start in life for his family.

"Not just all of us, but helping his mum too, when his father ran off." Mr Cameron said it was "not a hard luck story but a hard work story" and said the message he took from it was: "Work hard. Family comes first. But put back in to the community too."