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Sir Cyril Remembered

September 5, 2010 6:00 AM
Sir Cyril Smith alongside Gracie Fields

Sir Cyril Smith with Dame Gracie Fields, who was also born in a terraced house in Rochdale

Tributes have been paid to Sir Cyril Smith, former Lib Dem MP for Rochdale, who died on Friday. Party Leader Nick Clegg said "Cyril Smith was a larger-than-life character and one of the most recognisable and likeable politicians of his day. 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."

Former Lib Dem chief executive Chris Rennard added "When the Rochdale by-election occurred in September 1972, the Liberal Party had only six MPs. Cyril's victory in the by-election began the Liberal Party revival of the early 70s. The September Rochdale by-election win helped provide momentum and belief that Graham Tope could win Sutton and Cheam in the December by-election. Cyril's contribution to the survival and recovery of the party in this very difficult period following the debacle of the 1970 General Election was therefore immense."

Tim Farron MP said "Cyril was a larger than life politician who embodied everything that was good about Liberalism. He was a principled man who always put the people of Rochdale first. He was vocal and forthright and a passionate defender of the area he loved. Cyril never forgot his roots and spent most of his life in the same terraced house in Rochdale".

Knighted in 1988, Sir Cyril remained outspoken and more than capable of criticising his own party. Yet even his opponents liked and respected this larger-than-life non-conforming figure. Truly a big man.