An old broom picked to sweep away cobwebs

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Indy Politics
If William Hague wanted a new broom to sweep out the Tory cobwebs in Central Office, he would not have chosen Lord Parkinson to be its chairman.

Cecil Parkinson, as he then was, made a seamless journey up through the Tory ranks, entering Parliament in 1970 as MP for Enfield West, seven years before William Hague made his famous conference speech as a teenager. He was a whip in the Heath government and under Margaret Thatcher quickly joined the Cabinet as Paymaster-General and chairman of the party in September 1981 and became her blue eyed boy.

But just at his moment of triumph, at the party conference of 1983 following the Tories' second successive election win, his world caved in when it was revealed that he had had an affair with Sara Keays, his secretary.

He quit the Cabinet and spent four years on the back benches, more faithful to Mrs Thatcher than he had been to his wife. After the 1987 election, he returned to the Cabinet as energy secretary and he was transport secretary when Mrs Thatcher was deposed. Mr Major decided that Mr Parkinson had had his day and he went to the Lords in 1992.

He was a director, and for a time chairman, of Eurorail, the consortium which lost out in the bid to build and operate the pounds 3bn Channel tunnel rail link. He was appointed chairman of Starmin, a mining company, in May 1992 when its shares were 13p, but by the time he left two years later they had collapsed to less than a penny. Similarly, he became non-executive chairman of Usborne, the pig-breeding company, in 1992 and it spent several years in the doldrums before returning to profit this year. He recently became executive chairman.

He is on the board of Midland Expressway, the company chosen to build the Birmingham Northern Relief Road, but which the Government has put in jeopardy by its roads review.

His Euro-sceptic credentials were boosted by his links with Paul Sykes, the Barnsley millionaire who spent an estimated pounds 1.3m on funding Tory candidates opposed to monetary union at the election. Lord Parkinson recently became chairman of Mr Sykes's Internet provider, Planet Online.

He has maintained contacts with the Tory party throughout his period in the Lords. His loyalty seems to have paid off with this second resurrection.

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