No MP like him: Sir Cyril Smith dies

by Peter Wozniak

Long-serving former Liberal Democrat parliamentarian Sir Cyril Smith has died, the party has confirmed.

The former MP for Rochdale passed away on Friday at the age of 82.

Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats, issued a statement filled with praise for the veteran former MP, one of the most prominent Liberals during the rocky period of the 1970s and 1980s.

The deputy prime minister said: “Cyril Smith was a larger-than-life character and one of the most recognisable and likeable politicians of his day.

“I am deeply saddened to hear the news of his death today, and offer my sincere condolences to his family and friends.

“He was a true Liberal, dedicated to his constituency, always showing great passion and determination.

“Cyril was a colourful politician who kept the flame of Liberalism alive when the party was much smaller than it is today.”

Originally a Labour supporter, he defected to the Liberals and won a by-election against Labour in 1972.

Sir Cyril stood down as MP for Rochdale in 1992, after representing the constituency for 20 years, having been knighted in 1988.

As chief whip during Jeremy Thorpe’s troubled leadership of the Liberal party, Sir Cyril was known as an outspoken and independent MP, critical of Mr Thorpe’s handling of the short-lived arrangement to prop up Jim Callaghan’s Labour government in the 1970s.

He was also outspoken over the contentious merger with the Social Democratic Party in 1981 and frequently clashed with David Steel over issues such as capital punishment and nuclear weapons.

He is understood to have died in the presence of his family on Friday morning, following a long period of illness.