Sir Cyril Smith, Liberal MP for Rochdale between 1972 and 1992, has a personality so large that only his stature can compare to it.
He was an astounding advocate for Rochdale and in many ways still is. But, I remember him chairing a session of the newly merged Social and Liberal Democrats in 1988, at a regional conference in Southport.
The party, formed from the merger of the SDP and the Liberal Party had received a very difficult birth with many members of the SDP failing to join the new party and many Liberals unhappy with the new name of the party, which was to cause much debate for the next couple of years.
From where I was sitting in the hall it suddenly dawned on me what I was seeing. Because the party had only just received its new party banners, having only been in existence for a few weeks, where Sir Cyril was sitting obscured part of the sign totally changing the name of the party.
Instead of reading ‘The Social & Liberal Democrats’ Sir Cyril was obscuring the ‘c’ in Democrats, making the party name appear to be two titles, they were:
‘The Social Demo’ and ‘Liberal Rats’