TWO former council leaders have voiced their shock at the mounting allegations that veteran MP Sir Cyril Smith was a serial abuser of young boys.
Former Bournemouth council leader Douglas Eyre was originally from Rochdale, the town Smith represented for 20 years as an MP.
In 1982, the MP was guest of honour at Boscombe for a performance of the farce The Unvarnished Truth by All Saints Dramatic Society, of which Mr Eyre was chairman.
Liberal Democrat Mr Eyre, below right, whose family moved from Rochdale when he was 11, said he was “sad and angry” at the news about Smith.
“I met Cyril on a number of occasions. I must admit he was someone who I had great regard for, mainly because of his very plain speaking, which set him out among not only Liberal politicians but also politicians generally,” he said.
“I can only say I’m really shattered and saddened.”
He added: “He always seemed to me to be straight talking and I suppose a liberal but caring sort of bloke.
“It’s a great shock to me about all this.”
Former Poole council leader Brian Clements, below right, was the Liberal Party’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Poole when Smith visited Hamworthy Liberal Club in 1981 and pulled the first pint following a refurbishment.
Cllr Clements said of the allegations: “It was a complete surprise to me. Cyril was an unusual character, for his size as much as anything, but I certainly wasn’t aware of anything linked to the current allegations.
“My main memory would be of the fact that he was always very outspoken and said what he thought when we were at conference, sometimes quite controversially and not always following the party leadership.”
Greater Manchester Police said on Monday that they would investigate claims of a cover-up of widespread sexual abuse at Knowl View School in Rochdale, where Smith was a governor.
The town’s current MP, Labour’s Simon Danczuk, claims the 29-stone politician was left free to abuse children as young as eight despite 144 complaints by victims.