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Thatcher 'favourite' Parkinson loses his battle with cancer

By James Tapsfield

Published 26/01/2016

Cecil Parkinson who died on Friday
Cecil Parkinson who died on Friday
Sara Keays leaving hospital in London with their daughter Flora Elisabeth in 1984

Lord Parkinson, one of Margaret Thatcher's most loyal lieutenants, has died aged 84 after a long battle with cancer, his family has announced.

The Tory grandee masterminded the general election campaign that delivered her thumping majority in 1983, and held a series of senior posts in her governments.

But the revelation that he had a love child with a former secretary curtailed his career, ensuring he never secured one of the great offices of state - despite Thatcher's apparent wish that he should be her successor.

David Cameron led tributes to the former cabinet minister, saying he had been "part of an extraordinary political generation".

As a grammar school pupil who went to Cambridge, becoming a chartered accountant and enjoying a successful business career before entering parliament, Cecil Parkinson had much in common with Baroness Thatcher.

According to Charles Moore's recent authorised biography of the former prime minister, Parkinson was her "favourite" in the cabinet and she wanted to make him foreign secretary after he ran the successful 1983 campaign.

When he told Thatcher that his ex-secretary Sara Keays was pregnant, she apparently told him: "Anthony Eden leapt into bed with any good-looking woman. You can sort this out."

Yet they agreed the secret scandal meant he could not take a high profile role, and instead he became secretary of state for trade and industry. Despite Thatcher's efforts to protect him, Parkinson was eventually forced to resign when the situation emerged publicly the following autumn.

He was later rehabilitated as energy secretary and transport secretary, but never really shook off the controversy.

He quit government along with Thatcher in 1990 and entered the House of Lords two years later.

In 1997 Parkinson made a brief surprise comeback as Tory chairman in the wake of the party's electoral hammering.

He retired from the Lords last September as his health deteriorated.

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