Cecil Edward Parkinson


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(b. Carnforth, Lancashire, 1 Sept. 1931)

British; chairman of the Conservative Party 1981–3 and 1997–8, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry 1983–4, Secretary of State for Energy 1986–9, Secretary of State for Transport 1989–90; Baron (life peer) 1992 Educated at the Royal Lancaster Grammar School and Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he achieved distinction as an athlete, Parkinson was a management trainee with the Metal Box Company before training as a chartered accountant. In 1967 he founded Parkinson Hart Securities Ltd. Though initially a Labour supporter, he became a committed Conservative and served as chairman of the Hemel Hempstead Conservative Association. In the 1970 general election he unsuccessfully contested Northampton but was elected at a by-election later that year as MP for Enfield West. He served as a parliamentary private secretary to Michael Heseltine, the Aerospace Minister, for two years from 1972 to 1974 before entering the Conservative whips' office. In 1976 he was made an Opposition spokesman on trade and, following the Conservative election victory in 1979, he was appointed Minister of State for Trade. In 1981 he was plucked from relative political obscurity by Margaret Thatcher and made chairman of the Conservative Party. He was given the ministerial post of Paymaster-General and then Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. Reputedly promoted because of his good looks, he none the less proved a highly successful party chairman—he was popular with constituency parties—and was widely credited with having masterminded the Conservative victory in the 1983 general election. Following the election, he was appointed Secretary of State for Trade and Industry but was soon engulfed in a scandal about his private life, demonstrating indecisiveness when torn between staying with his wife or moving to be with a long-standing lover who had just given birth to his child. Press speculation about his future became intense during the Conservative Party conference that October and, despite the Prime Minister's support for him staying in his post, he resigned from the government. He was brought back by Margaret Thatcher in 1987, serving first as Energy Secretary (1987–9) and then Transport Secretary (1989–90), but provided a lacklustre performance, especially as Transport Secretary. He resigned from the government on the day that Margaret Thatcher gave up the premiership. He returned to business but did not abandon politics. He was a founder member of the Conservative Way Forward, a body set up to promote the principles espoused by Margaret Thatcher. He left the House of Commons in 1992, taking a life peerage. To great surprise William Hague in 1997 recalled him to be party chairman, but his stay was short-lived as he resigned the following year.

Subjects: Politics.

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