Monday, 6 September 2010

RIP Cyril Smith

The larger than life charismatic former MP for Rochdale, Cyril Smith, died on Friday at the age of 82.

There have been several tributes paid and obituaries written; the most interesting (and most revealing in respect to Smith's personality and character) but least warm is Michael Meadowcroft's in The Guardian.

Often a controversial figure, there is little question that by winning the Rochdale by-election Smith empowered the Liberal Party to realise its ability to win urban seats and to adapt its vision and tactics accordingly.

Never a huge supporter of parliament, finding the Commons stifling and restrictive, Smith described it as "the longest running farce in the West End". Much of his appeal, both within and outside the Liberal Party, stemmed from his anti-establishment attitudes, outspokenness and independence of thought.

He could be both forthright and contradictory; while famously arguing that the SDP should have been "strangled at birth" he had in the then recent past himself approached the Labour leadership with a view to forming a new "centre party".

He frequestly clashed with David Steel and was often the subject of media criticism but he retained his popularity and held his Rochdale seat until he retired from the Commons in 1992.

Whatever one's views on "Big Cyril", there is no doubt that he will not easily be replaced as the popular face of community politics.


Anonymous said...

A very honest man, a rare breed of politician.

Auntie Freeze said...

An amazing man. Larger than life in every way.