The Wit of David Lange

David Lange (August 4, 1942 August 13, 2005) served as Prime Minister of New Zealand from 1984 to 1989.

He headed New Zealand’s fourth Labour Government, one of the most reforming administrations in his country’s history.

Lange was renowned for a cutting wit and eloquence.

Selected quotes from Wikipedia.

  • After a very long year we’ve got a very short knight.

Source: Heinemann Dictionary of New Zealand Quotations (1988), p.
397.
On the knighthood of the rather short Sir Robert Muldoon in January 1984. Lange repeated the quote on U.S. television as an explanation of Sir Robert’s dislike for him.

  • If the American global strategy is dependent on the ability of nuclear ships to come to New Zealand, then God defend the world.

Source: Heinemann Dictionary of New Zealand Quotations (1988), p.
397.
Referring to American nuclear policy, alluding to New Zealand’s national anthem, God Defend New Zealand.

  • We are an enemy of the nuclear threat and we are an enemy of
    testing nuclear weapons in the South Pacific. New Zealand did not buy into this fight. France put agents into New Zealand. France put spies into New Zealand. France lets off bombs in the Pacific. France puts its President in the Pacific to crow about it.

Source: M. King, Death of the Rainbow Warrior (1986), p.
200.
Referring to the Bombing of the Rainbow Warrior

  • …a sordid act of international state-backed terrorism.

Source: M. King, Death of the Rainbow Warrior (1986), p.
202.Referring to the Bombing of the Rainbow Warrior.

  • The statement which has been made by the Leader of the Opposition was that the intelligence has stopped. I don’t know whether that was a personal confession or whether it was a statement of position.

Source: Dominion Sunday Times, 10 May 1987, p. 11. Referring to Jim
McLay’s comments on the effect of the nuclear ships ban on the exchange of military intelligence with New Zealand’s allies.

  • An itinerant masseur, massaging the politically erogenous zones.

Source: Heinemann Dictionary of New Zealand Quotations
(1988), p. 399. Of Jim Bolger, Leader of the Opposition during the 1987 election campaign.

  • He had more on his mind than his mind could hold.

Source: A New Zealand Dictionary of Political Quotations, p. 94. Referring to an
unsuitable applicant for a high-ranking government position.

  • When asked, “Does God help you?”: “He’s not really in caucus lately.”

    Source: A New Zealand Dictionary of Political Quotations, p. 94.

  • When asked, “So, what are you going to do with the rest of your life?”: “I’m going to be a jockey.”

    Source: A New Zealand Dictionary of Political Quotations, p. 97. Lange was notably rotund.

    Our military forces are an arm of government, just like the
    Department of Social Welfare, although probably less able to inflict widespread harm.

Source: Defence Quarterly, 1993, p.32.

  • On seeing a machine labelled “media steriliser”, Lange quipped: “Have that sent to my office immediately.”

Source: A New Zealand Dictionary of Political Quotations, p. 98.

  • Bassett was a member of parliament and a cousin on my father’s side of the family. My father delivered him and it became plain in later days that he must have dropped him.

    Source: David Lange “My Life” (2005), p.98. Referring to his former Cabinet colleague Dr Michael Bassett, who was delivered by his Doctor father.

  • To US Ambassador H. Monroe Browne, who owned a racehorse called Lacka Reason: “You are the only ambassador in the world to race a horse named after your country’s foreign policy.”

Source: National Business Review, 17/2/86.

  • On a trip to Germany, Lange and his entourage were climbing the tower of an ancient castle when they stopped to catch their breath. “How old is this ruin?” someone asked a guide. “Forty-two years,” said Lange.

Source: A New Zealand Dictionary of Political Quotations, p. 94.

  • Of his political colleagues: “If you took the glasses off some of them they’d be rendered dumb.”
  • Asked about the Security Intelligence Service by an opposition MP, he responded: “I can understand the member’s desire to have a passing connection with intelligence which seems to have by-passed him all his life. He has kept his secret for years.”
  • To a journalist who asked: “Prime Minister, can we go back to Ruatoria for a moment?”: “Certainly, goodbye.”
  • When asked: “Prime Minister, I wonder if we might have a brief word…” by a journalist, Lange replied: “Wombat”
  • Reacting to news that he had retained his Mangere seat in the 1990 election with a provisional majority of 3366: “Well, my majority might be of some interest to students of the Book of Revelation. It’s thirty-three sixty-six.”

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