The prime minister posted a series of tweets about Parkinson as senior Conservatives rushed to express their admiration for their former colleague, who was one of Margaret Thatcher’s closest political allies.
George Osborne also worked with him when he was party chairman in 1997 and praised him for being “there in our hour of greatest need”.
Several senior Conservatives recalled Parkinson’s close working relationship with Thatcher, and his integral role in her 1983 election victory.
Alan Duncan, who was Conservative vice-chairman under Parkinson’s second chairmanship, said: “He started as Margaret Thatcher’s great marketing man for overseas trade and turned into one of the great personalities of the Thatcher era. He was a central part of her main team. He was personable, amusing, easygoing and mischievously witty and a great member of the parliamentary skiing team.”
Others suggested he could have succeeded Thatcher as prime minister were it not for the scandal of his affair with his former secretary who gave birth to his child.
Sir Malcolm Rifkind, a former foreign secretary, told the BBC: “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. In her words he was ‘one of us’. He shared her views, her thoughts, her ideas. They came from the same position on the political spectrum and therefore she was comfortable with him and had confidence in him. 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 good looking but also had strong principles and strong views.”
Michael Portillo, another former cabinet minister, said Parkinson had been a “very helpful right-hand man” to Thatcher and a “very well-organised” party chairman. “He was very much of [Thatcher’s] mind. He had an easygoing charm and charisma,” he told the BBC. “He was a very attractive man, and she liked to have around her manly men, and he absolutely suited what she was looking for in that early 1980s period when the Conservative party was seen as rather tough, rather austere, rather aloof. He brought something else to it.”
William Hague, the former foreign secretary and party leader who brought Parkinson back as party chairman in 1997, said: “He was a very popular figure in the party. He did me a great favour. He was an unusually nice man for a politician. He had no previous intention of coming back into politics but when I asked him to come back as party chairman to help me see the party through a very difficult time, he thought about it for 24 hours, consulted his wife, but then he did it and he did a great job. I’ve never forgotten that.”
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