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Monday, January 25, 2016 

Cecil Parkinson - "An extraordinarily nice man to work with".

Sex, power and politics have always made for a potent mix.  50 years down the line, the Profumo scandal is still written about, has plays dedicated to it, and become as much a cultural signifier for Britain in the 60s as the Beatles, the pill or swinging London.  The Profumo scandal is also at heart a tragedy - for both John Profumo, whose real offence was to lie to parliament about something that a few decades later would be considered far more sympathetically, and which he would spend the rest of his life trying to make amends for  - and Stephen Ward, who killed himself days before he would have been found guilty of the laughable charge of living off immoral earnings.

Also a tragedy, but for only the one side was the downfall of Cecil Parkinson, cabinet minister under Margaret Thatcher, who died today aged 84.  Parkinson, unlike say Alan Clark, who made up for his repeated infidelity and hard right views by being gregarious and leaving behind his gloriously indiscreet diaries, was an extremely unpleasant man who deserves to be known for the details of his affair far more than he does the political career ruined by it.

Like how, in a detail that appears in neither the FT's (written by Iain Dale) or the Telegraph's obituary, Parkinson successfully took out an injunction that meant Flora, the child he fathered with his secretary Sara Keays, could not be identified by the media in any way until she turned 18 - meaning that she could not so much as appear in school photographs, or take part in many school activities.  Meant supposedly to protect her, it had very much the opposite effect.  Then again, it's not wholly surprising when you consider that Parkinson had urged his mistress of 12 years to get an abortion, despite predictably opposing abortion as a politician.  In spite of repeatedly promising that he would leave his wife and marry her prior to the pregnancy, Parkinson kept the promise he made to Keays the night she broke the news of her pregnancy to him, that he would never have anything to do with her again and never wanted to see the child.

Indeed, Parkinson had to be dragged to court repeatedly by Keays to get the support she and Flora were entitled to.  As well as being diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, Flora was left disabled after an operation on a brain tumour at 4 years old.  Keays claims that Parkinson said at one point during their legal battles that Flora should be sent to an institution, something he denied.  On the expiration of the injunction Flora gave an interview to Channel 4 in which she commented, with understatement, that "I think my father has behaved very badly towards me".

This is the man paid tribute to today by our current Conservative masters of the universe, such as Andrew Feldman, chair of the party and caught up in the bullying scandal involving Mark Clarke, who said Parkinson made "an enormous contribution to the Conservative Party and to public life".  David Cameron described him as "part of a great political generation that did great things for our country", i.e. helping the only government worse than the current one to carry on winning.  William Hague said he was "an exceptional talent and an extraordinarily nice man to work with", which he probably was, at least until he found out you were pregnant with his child.  George Osborne, finally, tweeted of how Parkinson was "there in our hour of greatest need", after the Tory defeat in 1997.  How indicative of the man, how fitting an epitaph, that he was there when his party "needed" him but not when the lover he abandoned did.

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