One of the earliest Liberal Party memories I have is not from the party leaders but from Cyril Smith. The ‘big man’ certainly had a way about him that made me even as a youngster look up and pay attention.
It wasn’t just the size of the man, although in recent years I did see him and hardly recognised the thinner version, but his independence of thought. What he said and the way he said it would often stand out, even from the Liberal party itself. He was the only Liberal to vote for the re-introduction of Capital Punishment for example.
Lib Dem Voice has a round-up of the tributes from around the Liberal Democrat Blogs including on from my good friend, and former agent, Caron about the Littleborough and Sadddleworth by-election. Northern Irish party secretary Pam Tilson has another memory of him from the same campaign.
She recalls that at a public rally he called Phil Woolas, who was the Labour candidate, ‘Woolyarse’ on a number of occasions through his speech, which had his audience in stitches. Considering some of the recent activity from Woolas who won the subsequent general election on the new boundary of Oldham East and Saddleworth, it appears to have been a keen observation of his Wooliness.
He was big man not just in size (though that was later reduced) but also in personality. He kept the light of Liberalism shining through some of the darkest hours. Many people remember him as being a character even if they never met the man in person.
Rest well Big Man.