Labour honour stalwart Spence
A LABOUR stalwart from Exeter who has dedicated nearly seven decades to the party and flown its flag at county hall for almost 40 years has been honoured by Ed Miliband.
Saxon Spence was presented with the party's prestigious Merit Award by the Labour leader at the party conference in Manchester this week.
The 83-year-old joined Labour back in 1945 aged just 16, and recalls campaigning on foggy November nights.
She was elected to Exeter City Council in 1972 and, upon reorganisation, became a county councillor in 1974 where – barring a four-year gap – she has served ever since, most recently for the Mincinglake and Pinhoe wards.
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Cllr Spence has headed the Labour group since 1985, and held a host of party and public offices. She has received a CBE for services to local government.
Nominating Cllr Spence for the top party honour, the Exeter Constituency Labour Party highlighted her "unique and special contribution" as well as the "exceptional commitment" she had shown to the party.
Supporting the nomination, Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw highlighted her commitment to ensuring children received the best possible education.
He added: "The number and breadth of the public and party bodies Saxon has served on is testament to her stamina and dedication over decades of public service.
"She has also been a rare and effective voice nationally for Labour in the South West when we have lacked local and parliamentary representation."
Mr Bradshaw also paid tribute to Cllr Spence's bravery in making a famous speech at the height of the threat from Militant, which earned her a standing ovation led by then Labour leader Neil Kinnock.
Speaking at the presentation of the Merit Award, Mr Bradshaw said: "She has flown the Labour flag in Devon in the most hostile circumstances and environments and she's continued to do that for decades. And that's why she's getting a merit award from the leader of our party."
Speaking afterwards, Cllr Spence said: "It's obviously a great privilege."
She said the award was for her fellow Labour members.
"It recognises the hard work that our councillors do. It's not easy being a Labour councillor in Devon.
"I have been very privileged to be elected and carry the Labour flag," said Cllr Spence.
While stepping down as Labour councillor next year, she hopes to continue to support the Labour group on the county council.