PATSY Calton, the Liberal Democrat MP for Cheadle, died yesterday, aged 56, after a long battle with cancer.

Despite a recurrence of her illness during the general election campaign, Ms Calton decided to remain a candidate and was returned to parliament on May 5, with a greatly increased majority.

She last appeared at Westminster last Tuesday, using a wheelchair as she took her oath.

Charles Kennedy, the LibDem leader, paid tribute to her:

"I wish to extend my most profound sympathies and condolences to the family and friends of the late Patsy Calton following her death this afternoon.

"In particular, all our thoughts are with her husband, Clive, and their children.

"Patsy was a spirited and courageous member of parliament, and nowhere was that spirit and commitment more evident than in the way she continued to represent Cheadle throughout the recurrence of her illness . . . most movingly when, only last week, she took her oath in the House of Commons."

"Despite her desperate illness, her determination shone through. Cheadle has lost a wonderful constituency MP and the Liberal Democrats have lost a fine representative of our cause."

Ms Calton, a former teacher, was first elected to parliament in 2001, taking the Greater Manchester constituency of Cheadle from the Tories by just 33 votes, after two failed attempts in 1992 and 1997.

Her seat was the most marginal in the country and the Conservatives' top target on May 5, but she increased her wafer-thin majority to 4020.

She was taken to Westminster by ambulance to take her oath last week.

In a break with tradition, Michael Martin, the speaker, left his seat to kiss her and MPs from all sides murmured their approval after she took the oath in the chamber.

Ms Calton was diagnosed with breast cancer after the 1997 election campaign and underwent a double mastectomy the same year.

But she was told last year that the illness had returned.

She completed a course of treatment for cancer of the spine earlier this month.

She was a high-profile campaigner for breast cancer charities, running the London Marathon four times to raise money for Manchester's Christie Hospital, where she was treated, and the cancer charity Macmillan Nurses.

In parliament, she was LibDem spokeswoman on Northern Ireland and health, as well as chairwoman of the all-party group on breast cancer.

She served from 1994 to 2002 on Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council, where she was deputy leader.

She married in 1969, and had two daughters, one son and a grandchild.