David Lange 1942-2005

Former Prime Minister David Lange died on Saturday 13 August aged 63 after a long battle with ill health. He was regarded as “the best loved New Zealand political figure of the last 20 years” (Guardian Unlimited). Elected to office in 1984 at the age of 41 (New Zealand’s youngest Prime Minister), Lange inherited a country in the midst of a political and economic crisis. The policies his government employed to steer the country through this era of transition were certainly radical. Lange’s greatest legacy to New Zealand will likely be his anti nuclear policy. Lange’s “No-Nukes” stance took New Zealand’s foreign policy to the world stage and carved out a path for other countries to follow. During a debate on nuclear weapons against American evangelist Jerry Falwell at the Oxford Union, Lange, a highly skilled orator, famously responded to an interjector by saying: “Hold your breath just for a moment. I can smell the uranium on it”. Working as a lawyer in South Auckland for many years, Lange had always been an advocate of those marginalized by society. He received great respect from the Pacific Island community when he actively campaigned against the “Dawn Raids”. Lange’s strong social conscience stemmed from his Methodist beliefs. His sharp wit and luminous personality have found no equal in New Zealand’s political history. Throughout the ups and downs of his leadership Lange kept his sense of humour, a trait he reportedly maintained until the last moments of his life. Obituaries ran in The Guardian, The Times, The Independent, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Daily Telegraph (Australia), The LA Times, The New Zealand Herald among others.

David Lange: 4 August 1942 – 13 August 2005

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