Love child ended hopes of ‘heir to Thatcher’

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Documents highlighting the extent of Cecil Parkinson’s fall from grace are published for the first time today – 30 years on from the love child scandal which shook the Thatcher government.

The news that ex-party chairman Mr Parkinson’s former secretary, Sara Keays, was pregnant after a 12-year affair was first reported in October 1983 and eventually forced his resignation from the Cabinet.

Margaret Thatcher’s private papers have now been made available to the public and appear to confirm she was grooming him as her heir. They also include previously unseen resignation letters, in which she describes the situation as “tragic”.

Two handwritten notes show the then Prime Minister intended to promote Mr Parkinson, who became Lord Parkinson, to Foreign Secretary before the scandal broke. In one she wrote simply: “F.S. C.P.”

The move has long been speculated about but the notes are seen as the first solid evidence.

Chris Collins, from the Margaret Thatcher Foundation, is the only historian to have studied the archive. He said such a move would have catapulted Mr Parkinson up the party hierarchy, anointing him as her successor.

“It’s only speculative that she considered him to be her successor but it would appear that she was very serious about him indeed,” he added. “He had certainly risen very fast and she knew that by promoting him in this way, she would create an atmosphere around him.”

Mrs Thatcher was first made aware of the affair by Mr Parkinson on election day, June 9, and soon after received a letter from Ms Keays’s father. Afterwards she opted to make him Secretary for Trade and Industry. Five months later the scandal was reported in newspapers and within a week Mr Parkinson resigned.

Also among the papers are drafts of Mr Parkinson’s resignation letter and Mrs Thatcher’s intended reply.

The archive is open online at www.margaretthatcher.org