POLITICAL heavyweight Sir Cyril Smith has joined the fight against a North West regional assembly.
The former Liberal Democrat MP has put his name to a campaign alongside Knowsley North and Sefton East Labour MP George Howarth and Tatton Tory MP George Osborne.
Sir Cyril was approached by former Tory politician Sir David Trippier, who is to chair the new group, named North West Says No.
Mr Howarth, Mr Osborne and Sir Cyril will be the vice-chairmen of the organisation which was established this week and will be formally launched on December
15. Its secretary will be Robin Wendt, former chief executive of Cheshire County Council.
Speaking from his home in Rochdale last night, Sir Cyril, 75, told the Daily Post: "I have always been in favour of a one-tier government.
"I was the only Liberal to vote in favour of abolishing the old Manchester County Council.
"I am opposing the regional assembly because I don't think the powers it is being given are much use and it will, in any case, become a talking shop for the Labour Party.
"David approached me to come on board. We have been friends for a long time, he's a Rochdale lad and I have known him very well since he was a kid.
"I am still a member of the Liberal Democrats and still keep putting my two penn'orth in, but I have problems walking now.
"But though I may lack the mobility, and I have made it clear I cannot play a physically active role, I am prepared to do anything with a pen.
"They do say the pen is mightier than the sword anyway."
Affectionately known as Big Cyril due to his large physical size, the former MP and Mayor of Rochdale retired from frontline politics in 1991. He was offered a peerage but declined a seat in the House of Lords and saw a knight-hood as adequate recognition of his services to politics and the town he loves.
After leaving the Commons, he became a prolific public speaker, completing 10 lecture tours on the QE2.