David Lange.


All but the very youngest readers will remember David Lange, the extraordinary Prime Minister of New Zealand who gave humanity such hope when, at the worst time in the Cold War, he staunchly refused permission to ships carrying nuclear weapons to enter ports in New Zealand, so incurring the wrath of the US administration, trade sanctions and the ejection of New Zealand from the ANZUS pact. No other nation followed NZ’s example, though later the Japanese put in place a watered-down version.  His forthright condemnation of France for assigning secret agents to sink Greenpeace’s Rainbow Warrior while berthed in Auckland (‘an act of state terror’) will also come to mind.  Well, David Lange has died on 13th August, aged only 63. 

Lange came to the Oxford Union in 1985 to defend the proposition that ‘Nuclear Weapons are morally indefensible’.  He had a reputation as a witty and powerful speaker, amply confirmed at Oxford, where he won the debate and was accorded a rare standing ovation at the end.

Readers can find a transcript of his speech if they ask Google for ‘David Lange’, and can even listen to a recording of his speech – something I would earnestly recommend.  As a taster, I append a small paragraph.


The appalling character of those weapons has robbed us of our right to determine our destiny and subordinates our humanity to their manic logic. They have subordinated reason to irrationality and placed our very will to live in hostage. Rejecting the logic of nuclear weapons does not mean surrendering to evil; evil must still be guarded against. Rejecting nuclear weapons is to assert what is human over the evil nature of the weapon; it is to restore to humanity the power of the decision; it is to allow a moral force to reign supreme. It stops the macho lurch into mutual madness.


And for me, the position of my country is a genuine long-term affirmation of this proposition: that nuclear weapons are morally indefensible. And I support that proposition.

[Applause - standing ovation]


H. D.