Son of junk dealer became divisive figure in politics

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SIR Cyril Irvine Patnick has always been a divisive figure in Sheffield politics.

A right-wing Conservative he was loved and loathed in equal measure for uncompromising views on everything from apartheid South Africa (he opposed sanctions) to the reintroduction of the death penalty, which he voted for.

He is perhaps most famous for coining the phrase “the People’s Republic of South Yorkshire” after becoming exasperated at the left-leaning council of the 1970s.

But, as a politician, this son of a junk dealer born above a Hillsborough shop, was also fiercely loyal to his home city.

The 82-year-old of Abbeydale Road South served on the city council and then on South Yorkshire County Council for 21 years from 1967. In 1987 he elected to parliament as MP for Sheffield Hallam.

Among his most prized policies were pushing for a Manchester-Sheffield motorway and, more successfully, improving rail links between South Yorkshire and London.

He won two elections and served as John Major’s chief whip, only losing his seat in to the Liberal Democrats in the 1997 general election.

The building contractor was knighted in 1980 for services to business and local politics.

He once told a reporter on this newspaper: “I think about things before I reply. But I still come away from things and say ‘I wish I hadn’t said that. I wish I hadn’t commented.”