Our second best prime minister since 1945?

Ken Ross
As a former analyst (1976-2012) with the External Assessments Bureau, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Ken comments: “Our prime ministers are the most important players projecting New Zealand globally. I have watched them for the past five decades, usually from a vantage point of close proximity, in the role of informing them about current global developments.”

Wellington researcher Ken Ross is writing a book evaluating the 15 New Zealand prime ministers since 1945 from the perspective of their engagement in global diplomacy. His public lecture at the National Library of New Zealand on Wednesday, 17 June drew a full house for his topic: “David Lange’s ‘diplomatic’ journey from the Oxford Union to Yale”.

Ken summed up Lange’s chequered performance to rate him as our second best prime minister in stamping our mark internationally since 1945 – behind Norman Kirk. His comparisons between Lange, Kirk and Helen Clark produced lively debate during the question time which followed his talk.

Reflecting on David Lange’s global diplomacy while prime minister, Ken Ross argued that Lange was held in higher regard internationally for his diplomatic achievements than he was on the home front. Ken’s talk highlighted significant moments when Lange showed his strengths, as in his handling of the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior on 10 July 1985 – almost 30 years ago.

Katherine Mansfield’s “hedonistic” period

Katherine Mansfield’s “hedonistic” period

Katherine Mansfield destroyed letters and journals relating to 1909-10, a time when she was in reckless search of ‘life experience’ and had several lovers, a one-night marriage, and probably two aborted pregnancies. Now UK researcher Dr Gerri Kimber – the recipient of the 2015 Friends of Turnbull Library Research Grant – has discovered a folder of 35 poems by Katherine Mansfield dating from this time, in the manuscript collections of the Newberry Library in Chicago. Apparently retained by the London publisher who rejected them for publication in 1910, they were eventually sold to an American buyer who then passed them to the Newberry Library in 1999. Although they were catalogued as poems by Katherine Mansfield, no previous researcher had stumbled on to the realisation that these were not yet included in any listings of KM writing.

Dr Gerri Kimber, a leading authority on Katherine Mansfield, has been working on a new biography of Katherine Mansfield’s early years. She is a tenacious researcher who has already located previously unpublished material relating to KM’s first 19 years in New Zealand. Dr Kimber will use the FoTL Research Grant to visit Wellington in August 2015 to explore the collections of the Alexander Turnbull Library, which is renowned for its substantial archives concerning Mansfield. This material includes the recently acquired literary and personal papers from the estate of John Middleton Murry, Mansfield’s husband.

Gerri Kimber will be speaking at a FoTL public lecture at the National Library of New Zealand on Tuesday 4 August at 5.30pm.