Lord Steel, on today’s BBC Radio 4 World at One, was asked whether he should have acted in the 1970s in the light of the allegations about one of his MP’s behaviour, said: “I had no locus in the matter at all. They were ancient allegations about his time as a local councillor. They were nothing to do with his life as an MP.”
And yet this eye witness account of an incident in 1979 recalled by a member of the Liberal Party and reported to the local police, Liberal Headquarters and the Region at the time suggests that the Party leadership were informed of Cyril Smith’s indecent behaviour toward a young boy while he was a Liberal MP.
In 1979, I supported the by-election for Manchester. Tony Parkinson was the Liberal Prospective Parliamentary Candidate, but Manchester (as a city centre constituency) didn’t have a local group. The regional Liberal group therefore looked to Middleton, Prestwich and Whitefield Constituency to provide a ‘headquarters’ for the man-power and the organisation.
It was always accepted that Tony Parkinson wouldn’t win – it was one of those situations where the Liberals had to be seen to be fighting in the arena – but it was a lost cause from the beginning. The Regional Liberal Party (run by John Towers) put up the deposit. David Alton had made it into the House of Commons after our stalwart efforts of support.
David Whatmough had failed to make a dent in the voting when he stood for Whitefiled, Prestwich and Middleton (and we lost our deposit)
So David Alton visited our ‘headquarters’ (that was my flat) to encourage those of us who were working a full day in professional jobs, and then working another 6 hour evening, to keep the campaign going. I have nothing to say against David Alton. He was always respectful and gentlemanly in my company.
However, there was great excitement when we were told that Cyril Smith MP would come to see ‘all the workers’. He would come to my flat and help address the postal envelopes with the other ‘workers’. This felt like a great honour. By that time (1979) Cyril Smith was a local celebrity. We phoned the parents of our Young Liberals and explained that Cyril Smith would be arriving …if the Young Liberals would like to attend, they were welcome to come and address some envelopes at the same time and meet Cyril Smith.
Cyril Smith was late but eventually arrived with the Regional Organiser who was acting as his chauffeur. Tony Parkinson’s campaign manager was almost living full-time in the spare bedroom of the headquarters and not doing a lot even though he was paid! So, Cyril Smith lumbered up my stairs, huffing and puffing and shouting that he had arrived. You can imagine our excitement…we felt so honoured that a person who was a local celebrity and a Liberal icon had graced us with his presence.
He took up the whole of the door-way into my lounge. John Towers had to introduce him to Tony Parkinson (the PPC) and also to the campaign manager. I asked Cyril Smith to take a seat whilst I made him a cup of tea. His answer? “Well, I’ll need a bigger chair than that. When I have been cheeky on one seat I get cheeky on the other” So I brought in another kitchen chair so that he sat on TWO kitchen chairs. He was actually HUGE so I thought I was discreetly solving a problem relating to his weight.
I didn’t see anything untoward but, within minutes, when he had wiggled his bottom from left to right – shouting lewd comments across the room – he had broken one of the kitchen chairs. I told him he would have to move and gave him a wooden chair to sit on at another table. He continued to be loud and lewd which made us feel very uncomfortable. (I think this is the time when we felt more on our guard and not overwhelmed by his celebrity status.)
Cyril Smith sat next to a 14 year old boy (I deliberately kept him away from the young girls after his lewd comments). He bantered with anyone – old, middle aged or young… and then his left hand moved onto the groin area of the 14 year old boy. The boy jumped sky-high! My late hubby saw it and moved in very quickly (he sent me a signal to get the 14 year old boy into a safe space next to me). Hubby placed a firm hand on Cyril Smith’s shoulder whilst he ‘whispered’ in Smith’s ear. I believe that my late hubby told Cyril Smith to either remove himself immediately (without bother) or my hubby would remove him without ceremony.
How my 12 stone hubby would have removed a 30 stone MP I don’t know! Maybe we are sometimes empowered by the sense of indignity, right and safeguarding of those in our care. Cyril Smith did leave my flat without a fuss. My hubby reported this incident to the local police, Liberal Headquarters and the Region.
No further action was taken at that time.
So, when Cyril Smith came back onto the radar in 2012 and I heard on BBC News that ‘there were no allegations against him during his life-time’ I was incensed! I hadn’t yet come to terms with all the information I had about Jimmy Savile … so many people not reporting his unacceptable behaviour, turning a blind eye, ignoring, pretending, laughing it off as ‘Just Jimmy’
Well, I phoned my local police station and attended to make a formal witness statement. Cyril Smith is dead, but the reason I went to the police station and gave witness testimony in 2012 is because that incident was covered up and ignored by police and the Liberal party in 1979.
The local Police have tried to find the original witness statement from my hubby (2012) but apparently “it doesn’t exist”.