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David Lange - mourning a truly great NZer

David Lange - mourning a truly great NZer

It is fitting that the nation mourns the passing of a truly great New Zealander.

David Lange will forever be rightly remembered as one of Parliament’s greatest platform speakers. His other achievements should also be remembered.

He was one of the best chairmen I have ever served under. He had the knack of managing discussion so that it was focused and decisive but still broad enough so that those participating had been able to make their points. Despite chairing cabinet meetings that made some of the most far-reaching decisions in our history, cabinet was almost always completed by 12.30pm. A feat no other Prime Minister to my knowledge has ever equalled.

He was in sheer brainpower one of the most intelligent men I have ever met. Many politicians claim to be able to remember people’s names, I travelled with David extensively and I never saw him fail to remember a person he met. I still remember the woman who came up to David Lange and said, “you won’t remember me”. He replied, “yes I do and gave her name and then asked how her son was, who he said must now be an adult and how is his leg”.

She staggered away from him and said “we met for less than a minute outside the Kaikohe court 15 years ago. He wasn’t even my lawyer and he can remember my name and the fact that my son had his leg in a brace”.

An Indian friend of mine who has, to a European, an unpronounceable name, told me that part of the reason New Zealand’s Indian community has always loved David is because he not only remembered his name but was the only non Indian in his life to have pronounced his name correctly.

Unfortunately, many will remember David’s rift with Roger Douglas. I prefer to remember that he was a great leader and when we worked together we were a wonderful team and perhaps the most talented cabinet this country has ever seen.


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