Much like the gallant Argentinians in Hamilton on Saturday night, Labour MPs will be reeling.
After a sustained period of frenetic activity, most of it on their terms, much of it in favourable territory, they ended up on the receiving end of yet another in an unbroken stretch of one-sided wallopings.
Any similarity ends there. Whereas the Pumas players and coaching staff gracefully acknowledged being outplayed by a better team, Labour leader Andrew Little grumpily dismissed the poll, which had Labour at 26 per cent, as “bogus” and trudged off for Canada, where his colleagues must be hoping he has scheduled deportment lessons from Justin Trudeau.
My conclusion is he released their own internal polling because he was worried about a coup when he was overseas. It was a panicked decision.
This echo chamber thinking –– the tendency in politics to believe only what suits and reject everything else as a conspiracy –– is not new. In fact, confirmation bias is a ubiquitous force in all human affairs, as powerful as gravity.
I’ve worked on campaigns in deep blue seats where nothing could convince Labour candidates and volunteers that a stray encouraging word from a solitary passer-by isn’t evidence of a coming landslide.
It makes sense at the level of human psychology; otherwise, wouldn’t we just give up and go home? And yet, politics requires far less sentimentally, at least from those in leadership roles.
Yet to meet a candidate who doesn’t think that maybe just maybe they will win that safe seat off the other party.
A hard-headed assessment of Labour’s performance cannot but conclude that the party lacks talent along with basic political competence. Contrast its current frontbench with those that preceded Labour victories in 1984 or 1999.
The best of the current lot, by a comfortable margin, is the veteran deputy Annette King who featured in both. Phil Twyford, who got lucky with his portfolio, generates a fair few headlines, but his recent call for a State of Emergency on housing affordability, along with earlier targeting of Chinese surnames, suggests questionable judgment, not to mention an alarming propensity for hyperbole.
Among the others, Kelvin Davis is one of few who seems to understand what an opposition’s job is. The rest seem to spend most of their time on social media retweeting people who already agree with them.
Even if it were possible, replacing Little won’t solve anything without root and branch party reform and a ruthless cull of caucus deadwood.
Labour’s challenge is they may get no List MPs next election which means the only way to get new MPs in there is to have Electorate MPs retire.