Tributes pour in for widely respected Norbury councillor

The tributes to the life and work of Norbury councillor Maggie Mansell continued to pour in today, following her death on Saturday after a short illness.

Maggie Mansell

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and MP Steve Reed were among the first to pay tribute to the dedicated service Mansell had given, both within the NHS and on Croydon Council.

Among those who knew Mansell longest is Jerry Fitzpatrick, recently returned to the Town Hall as an Addiscombe councillor, but who was first elected to the council with Mansell in 1986.

Today, he remembered her by saying, “Maggie was a fierce and determined campaigner for equality and justice, a staunch and principled comrade,  who carried the torch proudly to the end of the journey.

“Maggie was one of 23 new Labour councillors elected at the 1986 council elections, and perhaps the first to make a strong impact, carrying herself with enviable confidence and authority, and speaking knowledgeably and with conviction on a range of issues.

“Maggie was politically serious in the best sense of that phrase, completely focused on formulating and implementing policies to make people’s lives better. In particular, she was passionate that people should have lifelong access to the best possible standard of health and social care, irrespective of income and personal status.

“In the last conversation I had with her on Christmas Eve,  she spoke movingly about the contemporary epidemic of mental illness which she observed among the young, and steps which needed to be taken to address it.

“Maggie was proud of Croydon, with a strong and devoted sense of public service. She was deeply committed to her constituents in Norbury, and spoke with great pride about Norbury Manor Primary School, of whose governing body she was long-standing chair. The school’s most recent Ofsted report in October 2017 gave glowing praise to the quality of governance at the school.”

Maggie Mansell, right, was a lifelong campaigner for social justice and a strong advocate for the NHS

Martin Whelton is a councillor in Merton who worked with Pollards Hill resident Mansell across the borough boundary and said that she was “dedicated and committed along with being a tireless campaigner for the Labour Party”.

David White, a member of the GLC in the 1970s and until recently the secretary of Croydon Central Constituency Labour Party, said, “Above all, Maggie was always friendly and approachable.

“I have respect for her long years of service as a councillor, including the early years when her party was in a minority in the council, as it had been throughout the council’s 100-year-plus history.

“I remember when she stood as Labour’s candidate for Croydon and Sutton in the first Greater London Assembly elections in 2000. She was always out canvassing in elections in Croydon, not just in the Norbury ward for which she was councillor.

“She was a good Mayor of Croydon. I saw her speak at a number of community events during that year where she really touched the hearts of the people present.”

In 2000, at the first London Assembly election, Mansell was Labour’s candidate for Croydon and Sutton, standing against Andrew Pelling, who would later became her colleague on the Labour benches at Croydon Town Hall.

Today, Pelling remembered her as a kind person in whom he could confide, saying that Mansell had supported him through tough times.

“Maggie was a kind person who I have known over three decades,” he said.

“I told Maggie only recently of how much I valued and how fondly I recalled her defending me from public bullying, including supporting me in the press, when I was not yet a Labour Party member. She was seen as a very effective Mayor. Like many in the Labour group, I just cannot conceive of Maggie not being there in the Town Hall Members’ Room to both talk to and to confide in.”

Another Town Hall colleague, Karen Jewitt, recalled their campaigning against apartheid. “The first time I met Maggie in the 80s she was wearing a Free Mandela t-shirt. I thought, ‘Now there’s a kindred spirit!’

“She remained that person who fought for the underdog with all her might and did not give up till she got what she deemed as fairness.”

David Wood, the Selhurst councillor, called Mansell, “the truest champion who believed passionately in public service, social justice and the Labour Party.

“It was never about her – only about helping others.”

And Tim Pollard, the leader of the Conservatives on Croydon Council, said, “Nobody could ever doubt Maggie’s commitment to her residents and her long history of service to those in need.”

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