25 Jan 2016

Cecil Parkinson – once groomed as Thatcher’s successor

Here’s the piece of paper that tells you how high in Margaret Thatcher’s estimation Cecil Parkinson had risen by 1983. In the right hand column she has pencilled “CP” in, the man who oversaw her General Election campaign in 1983, as the next Foreign Secretary. Cecil Parkinson’s political ally Nicholas Ridley said Mrs Thatcher was grooming him as her successor.



Instead, the day after the 1983 General Election, Mrs Thatcher showed him the letter she had received from his mistress’s father. She made Cecil Parkinson Trade and Industry Secretary instead but the pressure to resign over the child he’d had by Sarah Keays soon became too great.

The 1990 matricide when the Tory Cabinet turned on Margaret Thatcher was a defining moment for Tories not just because she was toppled, but because individuals like Cecil Parkinson continued to believe she was wrongly dispensed with, there had been a conspiracy that included supposed political allies in its midst and it should never have happened.

True believers like Cecil Parkinson continued to believe (I interviewed him on the subject two years ago) that Margaret Thatcher could’ve won the leadership battle even after Michael Heseltine had wounded her. You can see his contribution to that debate in this piece broadcast just after Margaret Thatcher’s death and feel how red hot the issue still was for the participants 14 years after the events.


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