Saturday, October 23, 2004

David Lange: Reluctant Revolutionary

I was watching Tom Scott's documentary "Reluctant Revolutionary" about David Lange tonight on TV. It was quite an informative and balanced program with one or two surprises. One of these, I have already blogged on before, while another - that David Lange was drinking too heavily for his own good at the start of his second term - was an eye-opener. Unfortunately the incidents weren't described because David is still alive.

The most poignant moment for me was the Oxford Union Debate, David Lange's finest hour. I watched it live then and cheered for David as he condemned at great length the American attempts to force New Zealand to accept nuclear armed warships. The poignancy of this moment is that I now know that this was one Big Lie. The Americans had actually bent over backwards to accommodate us by proposing the visit of the non-nuclear armed USS Buchanan but we had shat on their faces by turning it down.

Also new were some of the details of Lange's bad faith in his war against Roger Douglas (i.e. unilaterally pulling the plug on the flat tax package while Douglas was overseas despite having promised to Cabinet that he would hold off any action until he had discussed the matter when Roger returned). What was most interesting for me was Margaret Pope, who worked her way from Lange's speechwriter to become his mistress and finally his wife. She spoke at great length about the politics of the time and her actions therein, but she did not show any insight about her impropriety in influencing David's decisions.

The funniest anecdote was Prebble upon hearing the rumours that Lange is having an affair with Margaret. He tells Lange that if he is having an affair than he should transfer Margaret onto another position. On the other hand, if David wasn't having an affair then he should fire Margaret anyway because his last three speeches were just crap. David told Margaret about it and that was the end of a Beautiful Friendship.