In March 1985 the then Prime Minister of New Zealand, David Lange, against all political advice at the time, took part in an Oxford Union debate. He was the key speaker for the affirmative side That all Nuclear Weapons are Morally Indefensible.
He had won the election in July 1984 when the previous National Party government called a snap election after it lost it’s majority over the issue of allowing nuclear powered or armed warships into New Zealand. David Lange and the Labour Party campaigned on prohibiting such ships, and won with a sweeping majority. In 1987 when the anti-nuclear weapons legislation became law, it had the support of 92% of the population.
After thirty-four years, how much of the arguments put forward on both sides are applicable today? One of the affirmative speakers before David Lange touched on the fact the the major powers continued to wage war by proxy rather than by direct confrontation, and in fact nuclear deterrence had made little or no difference to world peace. War by proxy still seems to be a significant factor in many conflicts today.
The following clip contains selected excerpts from David Lange’s speech.
For anyone wishing to watch the whole debate, it can it seen in the next clip. I’ve started the clip at 7:15 in, which is where the debate starts. David Lange’s speech starts at approximately 23:30 if you wish to skip directly to it. A transcript of his speech can be found here.