Spectrum 159 and Spectrum 160. The acceptable rebel

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The Acceptable Rebel - a two-part "Spectrum" radio documentary produced by Jack Perkins and Alwyn Owen.

Former minister and Labour M.P. John A Lee returns to Parliament. At the age of 84, he walks the corridors and sits in his old seat in the Chamber he last knew 40 years ago.

The programme begins on the steps of Parliament and he recalls how the Labour Party were considered radicals when he entered politics in 1922, as a decorated World War I veteran - now they are the Establishment.

He says most of the Labour members at that time had been in jail for sedition. Inside Parliament Buildings he talks to messenger George White, who asks after Mrs Lee (who is unwell) and recalls how the building has changed since 1922. He says when the Prince of Wales visited, most of the Labour Party refused to dine with him or have their photo taken with him.

In the Speaker's Room he recalls Sir Charles Statham who he crossed, but who eventually became a friend. He talks about his memories of Bill Massey, of whom he had a poor opinion at the time. When he died, the Labour Party M.P.s sent a message of condolence but at the next Labour Party confidence a motion of no-confidence was moved in them because they dared to send a message of condolence to Massey's widow.

He comments on the portraits of some of the parliamentarians he remembers - he says Sir Maui Pomare was a great scholar, as was Sir Apirana Ngata, but he says Pomare was a better orator. Tom Burnett of Temuka, a conservative member, was denounced frequently by the Labour MPs but Lee came to respect him as he knew he had endured hardship early in his life.

He encounters Dr Michael Bassett, M.P. for Waitemata, who talks with Lee about his infamous 'falling out' with Michael Joseph Savage and his longevity as the sole surviving member of the first Labour government of 1935. They compare the long, late night sessions of Parliament they both experienced and the social atmosphere Lee remembers from his time.

Lee says his office was in 'Siberia'. He remembers a tall beer glass in Bellamy's known as 'the Proletarian.' Many members were housed in shared offices. Lee says many of his colleagues were labourers who were self-educated Socialists - but he wonders if the party has now become bourgeois? He talks about a letter from Dick Campbell, a former young radical from Victoria College [University].

In the General Assembly Library, he recalls reading newspapers there every morning and climbs the stairs to the Opposition office of Sir Keith Holyoake, 'the father of the House.'

In the second programme, John A. Lee and Sir Keith Holyoake continue reminiscing about M.P.s they remember, such as George Forbes and Paddy Webb. Holyoake talks about the large Motueka electorate he served, which included Karamea as well as Golden Bay and parts of Nelson. They discuss Gordon Coates' Exchange Act and Lee's attempt to persuade Holyoake to join the Labour Party.

Sir Keith talks about plans to demolish the rear part of the General Assembly Library building and strengthen the Gothic frontage. They visit the debating chamber and encounter M.P.s Bert Walker and Lance Adams-Schneider, who speak briefly.

They recall the Upper House, who wore dinner suits when Parliament was sitting. In the Chamber, they remember the first time they entered and other memorable moments of debate.

A school group are visiting Parliament and an excerpt of the tour guide 's commentary is heard. They both despair that children are no longer taught to recite large amounts of poetry from memory. Lee says he has a large number of diaries and correspondence from throughout his life, while Holyoake regrets he has not kept much.

At the main entrance, messenger George White escorts him out the revolving door and recalls how ferociously Lee used to push it in his younger days.

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Year 1975

Reference number 22394

Media type AUDIO

Collection Sound Collection

Credits RNZ Collection
Holyoake, Keith Jacka (b.1904, d.1983)
Lee, John A. (John Alexander), 1891-1982, Speaker/Kaikōrero
Perkins, Jack (b.1940), Producer
Bassett, Michael, 1938-, Speaker/Kaikōrero
Adams-Schneider, Lancelot Raymond, Speaker/Kaikōrero
Walker, Bert, Speaker/Kaikōrero

Duration 00:26:00

Date 1975

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