And there were moments of symbolism.
May 23, 2011 6:30 AM Subscribe
It is a strange, dubious and totally unaccepted moral purpose which holds the whole of the world to ransom.On 1 March 1985, New Zealand Prime Minister Rt Hon David Lange (Previously) addressed the Oxford Union in support of the proposition that "Nuclear Weapons are Morally Indefensible". That speech is online at publicaddress.net (audio, transcript, highlights) and still resonates today.
When the United States requested clearance for a visit by the USS Buchanan, a ship they could not guarantee was nuclear free, he refused in accordance with the Labour Party's nuclear free policy, announcing at a press conference that:
If a ship is nuclear-capable, it will not come unless we can be assured it does not carry nuclear arms. Your question: can we establish that? Answer: no. QED. No come.The resulting diplomatic furore included veiled threats from both the United Kingdom and the United States, and served to galvanise public opinion in New Zealand. It also prompted the Oxford Union to invite Lange to debate evangelist and Reagan confidant Jerry Falwell. His reluctance evaporated after a visit from a British diplomat:
It came to be known that I was considering it and they had offered the return fare. Margaret Thatcher sent a note through her High Commissioner, which he delivered to me, asking me not to do it. And that sealed it as far as I was concerned. I told him what I thought of him and of his new hair dye and various other things like that and I decided definitely to go.*Although a masterful impromptu orator, he wrote some notes (with speech writer and future wife Margaret Pope) on the flight over, and when he arrived he was forced to sleep in what he described as "a small broom cupboard" after a bomb scare, but when he spoke the Oxford members stood in support and for the first time in its short history, New Zealand stood alone in foreign policy, nuclear free.
*Revolution, by Marcia Russell
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