A FORMER Bolton MP who sensationally quit the governing Conservative party when it was plagued by political turmoil has died.

Peter Thurnham, who represented Bolton North-east from 1983 to 1997, died on Saturday after a short battle with pancreatic cancer just hours after marrying his second wife, Carole.

He died at his home near Bentham in Lancashire, aged 69.

Mr Thurnham was a colourful figure. His most controversial moment saw him crossing the floor of the House of Commons and joining the Liberal Democrats in October, 1996, furthering the decline of the already struggling Conservative party.

He did not contest the seat in the 1997 elections and it was won by David Crausby.

As an MP, Mr Thurnham lived in Kendal. He took a particular interest in child and disability issues, something he had direct experience of when he adopted a severely mentally and physically handicapped son, Stephen.

He also promoted the benefits of IVF research.

In Bolton, he campaigned to improve housing in the more deprived areas of the town, bringing in millions of pounds to improve living conditions in Halliwell.

His daughter Sophie, aged 41, who lives in Kenya, said: "He was an inspiring father. He was very hard working and a great role model. He particularly enjoyed being a grandfather.

"He saw being a constitunecy MP as being his most important role and his voting record proved that. He wanted to put Bolton on the map and tried to get all the funding he possibly could."

Bolton Council's Conservative group leader Cllr John Walsh was Mr Thurnham's agent in the 1992 election which he won by just 185 votes.

He said: "Peter worked extremely hard as an MP for Bolton North-east and he made a mark on the town. He was an outstanding constituency Member of Parliament."

Lib Dem Cllr Barbara Ronson said: "My main dealings with Peter were in his voluntary capacity.

"I had a great deal of respect for all the work he did for young people and disabilities."

Mr Thurnham's marriage to Sarah broke down and they divorced in 2004. They had five children.

His funeral will be held at St John the Baptist church in Tunstall, near Kirkby Lonsdale, on Wednesday at 11.30am.