Sir Cyril Smith, a true political giant, dies aged 82

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Indy Politics

His autobiography was titled Big Cyril, and he was a larger-than-life politician in more ways than one. Yesterday the Deputy Prime Minister led tributes to Sir Cyril Smith, who died in his sleep aged 82.

Sir Cyril, said to have weighed 29st at his heaviest, was the Liberal and, later, the Liberal Democrat MP for Rochdale between 1972 and 1992. An independent-minded and outspoken figure, he once branded Parliament as "the longest-running farce in the West End".

He became known to a wide public audience after frequent TV appearances in the 1970s and 1980s. He was made an MBE for his public service in 1966 and was knighted in 1988.

From humble beginnings in Lancashire, he won a scholarship to Rochdale Grammar School for Boys, honing his debating skills at the local Unitarian Church. He was elected to Parliament in 1972 in a spectacular landslide victory over Labour in his home patch, and despite his party affiliation, he rapidly displayed his independent streak.

Nick Clegg said: "Cyril Smith was a larger-than-life character and one of the most recognisable and likeable politicians of his day. Everybody in Rochdale knew him, not only as their MP but also as a friend."

The Liberal Democrat leader added: "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."