Former Tory minister Cecil Parkinson’s family has confirmed he passed away on 22 January, aged 84, following a battle with cancer.
One of the most flamboyant politicians of the Thatcher era, Cecil Parkinson was described by Margaret Thatcher’s biographer, Charles Moore, as her “favourite in the Cabinet and perhaps the only one whom she regarded as a private friend. He understood and shared her politics, and was uniquely good at cheering her up and handling her productively.”
He is said to have been the only minister to remain loyal to Baroness Thatcher’s ideals throughout her 11 years in power, resigning from the Cabinet when John Major became Prime Minister.
Born the son of a railway worker on 1 September 1931, Lord Parkinson won a scholarship to Royal Lancaster Grammar School. He then went to Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he won an athletics blue and competed in a combined Oxford and Cambridge team against American universities. Reading first English and then changing to law, he was a Labour Party supporter as a student.
After graduating Lord Parkinson became a chartered accountant and director of many companies before first being elected to Parliament in 1970. Becoming a junior minister following the Conservative Party’s 1979 election victory, he rose quickly to be named party chairman and was elevated to Baroness Thatcher’s Cabinet in 1981. He remained there to be a member of her War Cabinet during the 1982 Falklands conflict.
As Baroness Thatcher’s Conservative Party Chairman he famously played a centrol role in the party’s victory at the 1983 general election. Although he left the Cabinet soon after after his relationship with former secretary Sarah Keays was revealed, he returned to the government in 1987 serving as Energy and Transport Secretaries.
He was made a Life Peer in the Dissolution Honours in 1992. As Baron Parkinson of Carnforth, in the County of Lancashire, he then continued to fight for his causes from the House of Lords, in particular his doubts over Britain’s role in the European Union. In August 1993 he said John Major had presided over “a terrible 12 months” of drift and disunity, warning natural Tory voters “feel let down, even betrayed”.
Aged 66 he returned to the role of Party Chairman in 1997 at William Hague’s request, before retiring a year later.
In retirement he served as the founding Chairman and later Vice-President of Conservative Way Forward, the Thatcherite group described by David Cameron as “the largest and most effective pressure group within the Conservative movement today”, of which Baroness Thatcher herself was President.
A family spokesman said: “Cecil passed away on January 22 after a long battle with cancer.
“‘We shall miss him enormously. As a family, we should like to pay tribute to him as a beloved husband to Ann and brother to Norma, and a supportive and loving father to Mary, Emma and Joanna and grandfather to their children.
“We also salute his extraordinary commitment to British public life as a member of parliament, cabinet minister and peer – together with a distinguished career in business.”