Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife got home from lunch with friends at a pub in the English countryside and discovered they had forgotten something at the pub: their 8-year-old daughter, Nancy.
Nancy was fine -- she was quickly reunited with her parents after they realized she was missing. But Cameron's parenting skills took a drubbing Monday, just weeks after the government set up a program to give parents of young children classes on how to raise them.
Downing Street said the incident happened "a couple of months ago" as the family was leaving a pub near Chequers, the official country house that prime ministers use when they want to escape London.
The Camerons, some friends and their children had gone for Sunday lunch to the Plough in the village of Cadsden. Like many British pubs, particularly in rural villages, it offers a pleasant local gathering place with a garden where children are welcome, along with their parents and their pets.
As the Camerons' visit with friends neared its conclusion, Nancy went to use the bathroom. Minutes later, the families piled into two cars to drive back to Chequers.
Cameron was traveling 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. They only realized she was missing when they got home.
"The prime minister and Samantha were distraught when they realized Nancy wasn't with them," said his spokeswoman, speaking on customary condition of anonymity in line with policy. "Thankfully, when they phoned the pub she was there, safe and well."
Nancy was separated from her parents for only about 15 minutes until her mother picked her up from the pub, she added.
The incident, revealed Monday by the Sun newspaper, sparked a debate in Britain about Cameron's parenting. 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.
The case also highlighted a sharp contrast with security procedures in the United States, where it is nearly inconceivable that a similar mistake could have been made with one of President Obama's daughters. U.S. Secret Service agents routinely guard and monitor the president's immediate family when they are out in public.
In Britain, it's common for people to see the prime minister shopping for groceries and other items on weekends, though it's difficult to tell if he is being watched by armed plainclothes agents.
Cameron's office confirmed there "are security arrangements in place for the prime minister's family," but declined to provide any details.