Pete Spalding (Honorary Alderman and Past Mayor of Croydon 1996-1997) gave the main personal tribute to Maggie Mansell at the memorial service on Tuesday 29 January. This is what he said.
Maggie Mansell was my friend. She was a good and loyal friend for more than 40 years. A good friend for at least a decade before we first served together as Croydon Councillors and I’d like to share a few memories with you today – mostly from the time before she became a Councillor.
Although I’d already known Maggie for a while it was in 1979 that we first campaigned together in what was the first direct election to the European Parliament. It was then that I realised what a really good organiser and hard working campaigner she was – taking on board whatever task she was asked to do and in 1979 that included acting as the candidate’s chauffeur for much of the campaign.
Sadly our candidate didn’t win the election but that certainly wasn’t due to any lack of effort on Maggie’s part.
Maggie, as most people will know, dedicated much of her life to the Labour Party – and she worked very hard for the Labour Party. But as a woman of strongly held beliefs she was involved in much more than just the Labour Party. She was opposed to the proliferation of nuclear weapons and she supported the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament – largely because she believed that the money spent on bombs and missiles could be better spent on schools and hospitals. And of course Maggie campaigned tirelessly to defend her beloved National Health Service. She also campaigned against the apartheid regime in South Africa and campaigned passionately for the freedom of Nelson Mandela. I remember attending an anti-apartheid meeting with Maggie at Conway Hall in Red Lion Square and like all good meetings it was followed by lively conversation in one of the pubs in Red Lion Street where Maggie ended the evening in deep conversation with Archbishop Trevor Huddleston, Desmond Tutu’s predecessor as the Archbishop of Cape Town, and Oliver Tambo the exiled General Secretary of the African National Congress.
On another occasion at an anti-apartheid rally in Trafalgar Square Maggie was asked to look after the Reverend Jesse Jackson who was to be one of the main speakers. She managed, as only Maggie could, to get the Reverend Jackson through a densely packed crowd of many thousands and up onto the plinth at the base of Nelson’s Column so that he could deliver his speech.
Maggie Mansell became a valued and respected member of the London Labour Mayors’ Association which was founded by her great hero Clement Attlee in 1920 when he was Mayor of the old London Metropolitan Borough of Stepney and I know that Maggie was delighted to be a member of the Association’s delegation to South Africa which was hosted by Lord Boateng when he served as the UK’s High Commissioner to South Africa.
Can I say finally that Maggie Mansell was good, she was kind, she was compassionate. She truly cared about people and she personified old fashioned virtues of integrity and decency. Hers was a life well lived.
And she was my friend and I will miss her. We will all miss her. But there is some solace in knowing that she will be remembered and loved for a very very long time.