Losing well

Simon Smart reflects on Dominic Perrottet's concession speech after the NSW election - and why we value losing with dignity and grace.

Last Saturday night in Sydney there were two big battles going on. I was intensely focused on one of them. While political pundits made their observations of incoming results in the state election, I was preoccupied with my Rugby League team’s fortunes at Accor stadium where I had travelled for the match.

Labor had a resounding victory. In the footy, the good guys lost by a point. I tried to be gracious in defeat. I didn’t manage it. I should have been paying attention to Dominic Perrottet’s classy final bow as he left office.

We teach children to try hard and do their very best but to lose well. It’s a hard lesson because it goes against all our natural instincts of wanting to lash out or blame someone else or just to sulk. But it’s impressive when you see it.

Dominic Perrottet’s concession speech was a master class in losing well. He took time to praise his opposite number (excuse my sporting analogies) for his integrity and decency. He recognised the quality of the campaign as a “genuine battle of ideas” and therefore “politics at its best” and attributed much of that to Labor Leader Chris Minns and the way he carried himself. He implored “everybody across NSW, whatever your political persuasion to get behind [Minns],” because “he will make a fine 47th Premier of NSW.”

It was a rare display of civility in modern politics, even in defeat.

Next weekend we’ll all take a breath over the Easter break—a reminder that our culture is still haunted by the story of the most terrible defeat that turned out to be a triumph. Arguably, it’s because of that story that we still sense that to lose with dignity, honour and grace, is itself a special kind of victory.

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