Nick Clegg leads tributes to 'larger-than-life' ex-MP Sir Cyril Smith

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg tonight led tributes to "larger-than-life" politician Sir Cyril Smith, who has died at the age of 82.





Mr Clegg said he was "deeply saddened" to hear of the death of Sir Cyril, who served as the Liberal and later Liberal Democrat MP for Rochdale between 1972 and 1992.



He praised the veteran figure, who was famous for his distinctive appearance and frequent television appearances in the 1970s and 1980s.



Sir Cyril, who was said to have weighed 29 stone at his heaviest, could be disdainful of Westminster, once branding Parliament as "the longest running farce in the West End".



The lifelong bachelor was made an MBE for his public services in 1966 and was knighted in 1988.



Mr Clegg 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.



"Everybody in Rochdale knew him, not only as their MP but also as a friend.



"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.



"Rochdale and Britain have sadly lost one of their great MPs, and I think we can safely say there will never be an MP quite like Cyril Smith again."



Former Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell said: "Cyril Smith was a one-off in British politics. His views were always forthright and he did not suffer fools gladly.



"His service to the Liberal cause was immense and whilst in recent years he suffered from poor health, his commitment was as robust as ever."



Lord Steel of Aikwood, a former leader of the Liberal Party from 1976 until 1988, said Sir Cyril was a "warm-hearted" colleague, adding: "He was first and foremost Mr Rochdale.



"His by-election victory picked up the Liberal Party from the disastrous 1970 election when we had only six seats and started our recovery."



Famously outspoken with a typical Northern bluntness, Sir Cyril never made it to the leadership of his party.



During a political career spanning decades he changed parties three times and in 1976 suggested the formation of a completely new Centre party.



From humble beginnings in Rochdale he won a scholarship to Rochdale Grammar School for Boys, honing his debating skills at the local Unitarian Church.



Elected to Parliament in 1972 in a spectacular landslide victory over Labour in his home town, he began his resolutely independent career at Westminster despite his party affiliation.



He became party spokesman on employment and chief whip but rejected calls for him to stand as the party leader.



He finally retired from Westminster in 1992.

News
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
news

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

News
people
Voices
Left: An illustration of the original Jim Crowe, played by TD Rice Right: A Couple dressed as Ray and Janay Rice
voices

By performing as African Americans or Indians, white people get to play act a kind of 'imaginary liberation', writes Michael Mark Cohen

Arts and Entertainment
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
i100
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site this morning

News
people

Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Humanities Teacher - Greater Manchester

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...

Design Technology Teacher

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

Foundation Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

English Teacher- Manchester

£19200 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Are you a ...

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes