Sunday, 23 November 2008

The Saturday Cyrilgate

It looks like the Rochdale Obscurer is up to its old tricks again in its letters page.
Pro-Cyril letters making up the central space 'balanced' with a lame letter from a Save Spodden Valley supporter and an obscure rant about politicians in general.

A very curious. A 2:2 balance. Curious because the web version of the Rochdale Observer has a huge 7:0 response against Cyril Smith

Also very curious is the line taken by the leading Pro-Cyril letters by a "Mr Berry" and Lib Dem Councillor Jean Ashworth. They are almost identical to a series of heartfelt defences seen on Rochdale Online a few weeks ago in reaction to a New Statesman article entitled Asbestos: The Lies That Killed. Those early defences were penned by Rochdale Lib Dem's often tired and emotional spin doctor, Dave Hennigan.

The basic lines include: Leave poor Cyril alone he is an old man and has done
so much, so selflessly for Rochdale. It was all such a long time ago. Other industries were dangerous too. He was defending jobs. This is all parochial and political by a few 'leftie' extremists. T&N was a good company and asbestos isn't that bad.

As with Watergate, note the non-denial denials. No substantive evidence to counter the claims made about Cyril Smith in the New Statesman and Kevin Maguire's column in The Mirror.

Irony was not wasted on Cllr Jean Ashworth's contribution to defend Cyril.
Demands to stop a "witchhunt",
from someone often not seen in a good light,
living in "Hollow Spell"?

Just in case the Rochdale Observer decide to delete the negative comments relating to Cyril Smith, they are reproduced below. They are hard-hitting. No wonder Cyril's favourite chip wrapping didn't publish them...

"I come from a family of Liberal Democrat voters but I've been sickened by Cyril's attitude to what is clearly a mistake of judgment he made back in the 1980's. I once admired the man as an honest and straight-talking politician. Being somewhat cynical in nature I cannot but help being alerted to the blind defence of Cyril by some of today's politicians. What Cyril did was wrong and the more I read of messrs Taylor and Rowen mudslinging and avoidance makes me ever more suspicious of their motives to avoid confroonting a very thorny issue . Cyril Smith was a popular figure, he came accross as simple soul who people trusted. I'm very sorry to say that this genuine trust seems to have been abused. The daily Mirror quotes Cyril as saying he let Turners write speeches for him on asbestos so that he could look intelligent on a subject he knew little about. This makes Cyril sound like an honest fool. Why didn't he let his constituents know how he conducted himself in parliament back when he was our MP? How dare he risk the lives of his townsfolk by blindly parroting speeches that could have damaged the health of people all over Britain".

"All this stuff about Cyril has been going on for a while and doesn't show any sign of going away. Knowing Cyril of old he seems to be very careful about reacting to what is being reported. Is there more to this than meets the eye?

In the letters page Cyril and his brother Norman have thrown all sorts of careful accusations out- a 'left wing plot' by 'fantasists' and local 'idiots'. The thing about such claims are they don't need to be proved. They act as a slur rather than a proper explanation.

What makes me question Cyril's claims that this is merely some local plot against him is the fact that this is being talked about all over the country. National magazine articles, a national newspaper and a parliamentary motion. This is hardly some petty local feud.

And before I am accused of being political let me make something very clear. I voted for someone I consider to be a gentleman - Cllr Peter Evans. I know him to be a man of true conscience. The more I read about Cyril Smith from a variety of sources the more uneasy I feel".

Lancashire Lad,

"Whenever awkward questions are asked about Cyril all there really is as a reply is a tired old mantra "how dare they say this about Cyril the man who has done so much for Rochdale". Well, I'm old enough to know about what has gone on in Rochdale over the years and personally I don't think that this lame response washes. Why is asking questions about Cyril so taboo? Is he a sacred cow that cannot be challenged? I didn't realise we were in a North Korean type state and that the cult of personality was alive in Rochdale. After all the Rochdale Observer 80th birthday special pull-outs about Cyril, I am still none the wiser about all that Cyril has done for Rochdale. He has spent over 50 years in politics job, good for him, but does he really deserve a gold clock and our blind admiration? What has a really done that is so special for Rochdale? He spent a lot of time in various education and planning committees in the Council. Attended a lot of bring and buy sales and fetes. Put his name to a few charities (that have been run day-to-day by hardworking people who get little credit for it). As an MP he was unremarkable apart from being recognisable for having a very large frame and being outspoken to the point of rudeness, what did he really do? He seemed to spend more time acting the fool on the telly that actually conducting himself in Parliament. The news about Cyril having speeches written for him doesn't surprise me. Even his excuse that he did it to make him look intelligent is pure Cyril- defying anyone to criticise him and making sure there are insults aplenty to those who question his behaviour. Looking at Rochdale today what do we have to thank Cyril for? A mess of a souless town centre and monstrous high rise and concrete flats? Even his own area is one of the most deprived in Britain. Rochdale has been a bonanza for property developers who have made our town into a hotpotch of ugly cheap buildings strewn with potholed highways. There are many parts of Rochdale that are broken. But we keep getting told that we must doff our caps to Cyril Smith "Mr Rochdale"?

And before Cyril or his cronies accuse me of being some sort of leftie, let me make it very clear- the ONLY party I have ever voted for is the CONSERVATIVE party.

There are a lot of people who are sick and tired of excuses, threats and waffle from some local politicians. It is time for a few home truths and to dispel some harried old myths. Personally I don't care if Cyril keeps his knighthood or not but lets stop getting so much drivel about how grateful we must be to Cyril".

Babs Wilson

"How dare Cyril Smith take this attitude to cancer deaths from a product and a company he promoted and had shares in. His arrogant dismissal of criticism of him is appauling. To say people are "stupid" and to question what we in the North East know about Rochdale shows an utter disregard for the lives and health of people far beyond his Lancashire fiefdom.

Let me spell this out in short simple words for this nasty character who has been found guilty of dishonourable conduct in the court of public opinion. We know all about Rochdale, Turner & Newall and asbestos. The north east is currently being decimated with asbestos related death and misery- much of it as a result of products from T&N.

Cyril Smith was an apologist for asbestos. He promoted the product and lampooned those in Parliament who expressed health concerns. It takes at least 20 years for deaths to occur after exposure to this deadly dust. Some of the people who are now dying in our region were exposed after Cyril Smith was documented in those incredible 1981 letters to be cozying up the directors of T&N, asking them to write his speeches, getting the Chairman and Managing Director front row seat to watch his rehersed performance in Parliament the day after he had treated them to a slap up meal in Westminster.

People are dying every week in Newcastle from horrible asbestos diseases. Cancers from a material that Cyril Smith still insists never put the public at large at risk.

Cyril Smith's actions when he was an MP were absolutely diabolical. His unrepentant attitude still is unforgivable.

Don't preach to us Mr Smith that we don't know anything about Rochdale. There is dust from your asbestos factory in our lungs. We don't blame the workers or ordinary people of your town, but we sure as hell are not going to forget the shameful collusion of Cyril Smith MP with the most senior directors of a factory that peddled death around Britain.

Cyril told the Mirror newspaper that 4000 asbestos deaths every year is not significant. 4000 families losing a loved one to a painful, cruel death before their time is not significant?

How does this man sleep at night?"

Frank Proctor, Newcastle

Frank Proctor

"Whilst I don't want to be tainted with desires of earthly vengeance, I have to speak out about the news stories in the Rochdale Observer and Manchester Evening News about Sir Cyril Smith being 'honoured' with a 'tribute' in the form of a painting.

This year the Manchester Evening News and Channel M reported on the terrible illness and death of Leigh Carlisle - taken from this world at just 28. She died of cancer from asbestos. A beautiful young woman who took her terrible illness in her stride without anger or resentment.

Her parents are devout Christians who take comfort in their faith, are not publicly bitter or resentful about their tragic loss, but still miss their daughter ever so much. Their pain and sorrow is palpable. We pray for them. They have a remarkable inner strength and decency. Young Leigh was born in 1980, within months of the then Rochdale MP Cyril Smith actively promoting the continued use of asbestos. It has transpired that these Parliamentary speeches were written for him by the leading asbestos company Turner & Newall.

In recent reports, Sir Cyril remains billigerant and aggressive to the point of arrogance. He appears callous and unrepentant about his past deeds.

Beautiful young Leigh Carlisle lies in her grave. Sir Cyril Smith gets a 'tribute' in the form of a painting".
T&J.S, Failsworth

"Do I detect a hint of bias in the reporting of this article?

"but had only been co-signed by three other MPs as we went to press"

Well, since you went to press this figure has tripled and most significantly it has been signed by the Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Committee that looks into asbestos health & safety.

I have checked the Rochdale Observer website and cannot find any of the letters between Cyril Smith and Turner & Newall to read. Why not? Are the people of Rochdale not trusted to handle the truth?

The Rochdale Observer article mentions Cyril Smith saying he "made his own mind up and visited the plant at Spotland to see what it was like for himself". The article make no balancing point of fact that thee is a letter from Cyril Smith MP asking to attend the factory to rehearse his speech and will go over the draft T&N wrote for him "ten times" before meeting up with the personnel director. Hardly a spot inspection to gather facts in an independent manner.

Mr Rowen's comments are not helpful. He suggests we should forget the past and fight today's asbestos issues. But they are linked. Without knowing what happened in the near past then how can we understand and appreciate what to do about the huge problem posed by asbestos today"?

Frank Proctor

"Yes, I wondered why there was an article in Saturday's Ob about Sir Cyril being honoured with a painting for his birthday. His birthday was months ago and it looks as though the handover of the painting by the Ogden Trust happened in March.

Is someone trying to pull the wool over our eyes just because Sir Cyril is facing criticism?"
Babs Wilson.

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