Cecil Parkinson was the perfect Thatcherite... and a great lunch companion
I first met Cecil Parkinson when I was the in-house lobbyist for independent schools. I had undertaken an analysis of the potential impact of the issue on key marginal seats and sent the findings to the Chairman of the Tory Party. To my surprise I received an immediate call from the Chairman's office inviting me to lunch. I was asked to choose the restaurant.
A few weeks later I was standing outside Gran Paradiso in Wilton Rd awaiting Cecil Parkinson. His car arrived, the great man got out and shook my hand warmly. As we approached the door the owner came out, greeted me like an old friend (which I was!) and said with his wonderful Italian accent : "Hello Mr Bingle. Great to see you. Who is your guest?"
Parkinson roared with laughter and we had a great lunch! Gran Paradiso became his favourite restaurant. It is sorely missed ...
Cecil Parkinson was Thatcher's Golden Boy and he proved to be one of the great Tory Party chairmen. The contrast between him and his predecessor Lord Thorneycroft was indicative of the Tory Party before and after Thatcher's election in 1979.
Good looking, charming and superb at handling the media and rallying the Tory Party machine Parkinson was the perfect front man for a radical government that was intent on transforming Britain and shattering the post-war political and economic consensus.
Born of humble stock Parkinson became the epitome of what Thatcherism was all about. Glass ceilings were shattered and there were no limits on what an individual could achieve.
Much of what Thatcher did in the 1980s is nowadays accepted as the political norm. At the time, however, it was not just seen as radical but also socially and politically divisive. The forces of the left were much more powerful and radical then than is now the case. Before the Falkland War most commentators thought it inevitable that the Tories would lose the 1983 election. It was Parkinson's genius that he was able to 'sell' the government's case so effectively. His charm was immense but so too were his political skills. That winning smile was used to devastating effect.
His tragedy is that he is nowadays remembered (and perhaps always will be) for the error of judgment which brought him down. There can of course be no excuse for what he did and his subsequent behaviour towards his former mistress and their daughter.
Yet it cannot be denied that Cecil Parkinson deserves immense credit for what he did during a critically important political time for Margaret Thatcher during her difficult first term. In delivering her a crushing victory in 1983 he ensured that the promise of Thatcherism became a reality. For that he deserves our gratitude and thanks.
Like his favourite restaurant Gran Paradiso, Westminster and the Body Politic are the poorer without him.