David Lange's valedictory speech in Parliament August 22, 1996

I speak on a day when various members of the House will be here for the last time; I am. I came here nearly 20 years ago. I was young, huge, the ultimate product of the welfare state and the ultimate extension of the Plunket graph.

I was the person who had been educated to a fault. I was brash and big; I had long hair, I had most of my stomach and most of everything else.

Now I come with a lot less hair, a lot fewer teeth, a lot wiser and a lot older. I come with a lot of cynicism, having developed over the last seven years, particularly, a peculiar feeling about this place.

It is a sort of love-hate relationship in the course of which I have developed that Greek model of the fool: the person who, in mocking self-deprecation, can challenge conventions and orders - get away with mocking his mates, actually, without being regarded as a complete traitor - and may sometimes be able to get to the truth of a matter.

I came here a long time ago, and I came because I was a Labour candidate. I would never have won anything, I would not have got my deposit back, if I had stood as an independent. I came because I was part of a tradition that changed the face of our country back in the 1930s, and whose initiatives in those days have been the yardstick by which subsequent New Zealand Governments have been judged.

I came because I managed to forge a friendship with the most unlikely of people. I think of Joe Walding, who was on my selection panel. Joe was a pie-maker, a seller, a wheeler-dealer, a minor trader, a racehorse owner, a restaurant proprietor, whom I was able to go around the country with in an election campaign.

When we stopped at Palmerston we met our Labour support - and she was old. I talked to her. Joe had been 40 minutes without any form of nutrition, so we piled back into our two cars. We went eight or nine miles along the road before I stopped the first car and said: "Joe's not here. Is he in the car behind me?" We stopped the car behind me and there was no Joe. There he was, outside the tearooms with the tail of a filled roll, looking blinkingly up and down the street. We had certainly left old Joe behind.

I thought of that when Joe was with me one glorious night in Oxford, where in those timbered stone rooms, with a worldwide audience, we talked to the world about New Zealand's anti-nuclear position. And there was Joe.

He was in that amazing dinner suit; he had that vast expanse of white dress shirt with the diamond studs absolutely blatantly sticking out the front. He sat there with great pride like a pregnant morepork.

I was uplifted by the fact that a person like that who was part of my very political being was there ...

I want to say to the people who were with me that that first fortnight was quite formidable. We got through that initial period when we were not even sworn in.

We were on double time, and we did not even get time-and-a-half wages. We did not have warrants. We ran the show by television exchange, and by the force of power and argument, personality, newness, vigour, and that amazing sense of drama that Muldoon injected into it.

I would not have got where I was without Muldoon. He was essential to me, and the circumstances of the day were essential. The fact that we were in default at that particular time was absolutely critical.

I want to thank all my colleagues, including those back-benchers who did not know what was happening but were happy to come along in the slipstream. I am grateful for their loyalty, and for the intellectual capacity of Geoffrey and all those people, and the Michael Cullens who were there; the people who in those initial days of extraordinary drama kept the show on the road. This country is enormously different for our being here. We are unlike the country we were 12 years ago, and there is good and bad in that. But the balance of history will be that it was for the good ...

I want to thank those people whose lives were wrecked by us. They had been taught for years they had the right to an endless treadmill of prosperity and assurance, and we did them. People over 60 hate me.

They hate me because I was the symbol of what caused that assurance of support and security to be shattered. That is something that has always been part of my burden.

I came in a car to Wellington one day and saw a Truth billboard, which said: "PM's mum attacks him on surcharge", and she did, of course; she was Australian. And she did not even pay the surcharge!

It was just terrible. That is the sort of thing that happened, and I am deeply aware of that.

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