Lord Parkinson loses cancer fight

Lord Cecil Parkinson.
Lord Cecil Parkinson.
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He was the working class Lancashire lad who almost made Prime Minister.

But Lord Parkinson of Carnforth - better known as former Tory Party chairman Cecil Parkinson - will forever be remembered for the illicit affair with his secretary which all-but wrecked his political career.

Lord Parkinson, who died of cancer yesterday at the age of 84, never fully retrieved his reputation following the Sarah Keays scandal, much to the regret of Margaret Thatcher who, some said, viewed her closest cabinet confidente as the only man who could succeed her at No 10.

“Cecil Parkinson would have been the most natural candidate to succeed Margaret Thatcher because she would have had tremendous confidence in him as someone who shared her basic theme,” said former cabinet minister Sir Malcolm Rifkind.

“In addition to that, at a personal level he was able to charm her. He was a very good-looking, very handsome man. She was attracted by men who were both good-looking, but also had strong principles and strong views.”

Born in Carnforth, the son of a railway worker, Cecil Parkinson won a scholarship to the Lancaster Royal Grammar School and went on to study English at Cambridge.

From there he went into business and eventually into politics, yet he never forgot his Lancashire roots, supporting Preston North End and making a personal tribute to Sir Tom Finney when the city’s most famous son was on TV’s This Is Your Life.

The tall, clean-cut Cambridge athletics blue was tipped to go right to the top when he became Mrs Thatcher’s right-hand man. She promoted him to Minister for Trade on her election as PM in 1979 and two years later he became party chairman.

But his spectacular rise was halted just months after he masterminded the Tory landslide victory in 1983. His affair with Miss Keays, which produced a daughter Flora, became public and would continue to haunt him for virtually the rest of his life.

LRGS head Chris Pyle tweeted: “Sorry to hear of the death of Lord Parkinson of Carnforth – a long-standing friend of the school.”