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Sir Cyril Smith dies

The former Lib Dem MP for Rochdale passed away this morning aged 82.

The former Rochdale MP Sir Cyril Smith died this morning.

Smith, 82, spent 20 years in parliament, serving between 1972 and 1992. He rose to Liberal chief whip under Jeremy Thorpe, but rejected frequent calls for him to run for party leader.

Born in Rochdale, he rose through the ranks in his home town, becoming a councillor in 1952 and then winning the 1972 by-election in a landslide to become MP.

His extrovert personality, coupled with his sheer size -- at one point he tipped the scales at a reported 29 stone -- meant that he was a well-known figure in Westminster. Frequent television appearances also made him familiar to Britain at large.

Smith was a vocal critic of what he saw as the political establishment, at one point referring to parliament as "the longest-running farce in the West End".

His tenure as an MP was not without controversy. In 1981, he argued vigorously against further regulation of asbestos use, at one point delivering a speech that had been largely written for him by the asbestos producer T&N. A year later, he declared 1,300 shares in the company.

Smith was awarded an MBE in 1966 and was knighted in 1988. He never married. When asked why, he replied: "I haven't had a lot of time for courting women . . . I've tended to be married to politics."