When I heard he'd died, I had that brief, disconcerting feeling you get when you learn such news of someone you hadn't thought had still been alive.
I think that's because he was a quintessentially 1970s figure (although he was an MP throughout the Thatcher years, not leaving the Commons until 1992).
He stood out as an authentic working-class Liberal.
He was also that other rare thing: a prominent politician with a Lancashire accent. Why aren't there more of them? (I mean genuine Lancastrian - not the subtly different Manchester.) The only other one I can think of was Rhodes Boyson.
Some odd conjunctions and non sequiturs in the BBC obituary:
despite being a Liberal, he... was firmly anti-establishment
while he was all for having a nuclear deterrent, he was strongly against unions having a closed-shop arrangement...