“It’s ironic we’re doing this,” Georgie Dansey says as she sits down for an interview with Newsroom. “One of the first things I thought going into this campaign was, yay, I’m not gonna have so much media.”
Despite being involved in the running of campaigns (Labour and Greens) for more than a decade, Dansey’s own run at Hamilton West last year was a steep learning curve.
“There were a lot of firsts for me in that by-election, the Jack Tame TV interview, things like that. There was a lot of interest.
“And with this campaign, I’m not going to be asked to do any of that stuff … It was incredible and I loved it and I learned so much, but definitely having six months instead of seven weeks this time, and not having that media pressure from the get-go has helped me ease into this campaign quite nicely.”
Hamilton East remained stubbornly with National’s David Bennett from 2005 until Jamie Strange got it in the 2020 “red wave”.
Bennett has since retired and instead she will face a new candidate for National in Ryan Hamilton, a city councillor since 2018.
Jumping from one side of the Waikato River to the other, Dansey is Labour’s best bet at a win for Hamilton East, and at 31 on Labour’s list as the highest-ranked non-MP, even if the electorate doesn’t swing her way, Dansey may be headed to Parliament.
Given her experience though, on the trail is where she feels at home.
“I do feel quite comfortable in this space. My first campaign was in 2011, the Labour candidate for Hamilton East had an event at a hairdresser, like a woman’s meeting and I went along. It was my first Labour event and she was just sensational and so motivating, so then I joined her campaign team.
“And I’ve been involved with politics and Hamilton since.”
“At that time, we were dealing with a whole lot of things that the public were not on board with. It was right when we were addressing the three waters stuff and obviously, we were coming off the back of a rogue MP.”
– Georgie Dansey
Dansey, done with her time behind the scenes, was then thrust into the spotlight following the Gaurav Sharma fallout.
She’s quick to set the record straight on what has been termed that “hospital pass”.
“It always makes me laugh, because it wasn’t a hospital pass. I proactively put my name forward because I wanted to do it.
“I put my name forward initially for the 2020 Hamilton West candidacy and didn’t get it. So for me, it seemed like the logical next step to stand up for that by-election.”
Selectors would have wished they had picked Dansey instead of Gaurav Sharma, who went on to win the seat but fell from grace and was kicked out of caucus, then expelled from the party, due to repeated breaches of the caucus rules.
His allegations of bullying and mismanagement, which were levelled all the way up to Jacinda Ardern, were never substantiated.
Dansey lost the by-election to National’s Tama Potaka, admitting Labour was on the back foot.
“At that time, we were dealing with a whole lot of things that the public were not on board with. It was right when we were addressing the Three Waters stuff and obviously, we were coming off the back of a rogue MP.
“So the party members and the volunteers, they had to go on a real journey to overcome the hurt that they had felt from someone who they had supported for many years.”
Her connection to the volunteers and her understanding of how important they are to making a campaign tick, meant her first priority was mending that broken trust.
“The first aim was to ensure that we reignited and re-motivated our volunteers and allowed them to know that they were important and we love you and we need you and I think we achieved that because all those volunteers are back again this year, which is lovely.
“And then the second aim for me was just to really show that Labour, across the board, is in it for you, although I didn’t think of that slogan at the time, but now it fits quite perfectly. I can’t claim it unfortunately,” she laughs.
“We are a party that can look after the people of Hamilton West and that at a tricky time we’re still a party that’s able to represent all people across the board.”
Her plan for the campaign? People power
“It’s looking after our people … that’s always my first priority and then the second thing which is my experience, but also just what the data shows us is that direct voter contact is the thing that gets people to vote.
“So for us it’s about getting in front of as many people as possible and having those conversations about the Labour Party and what we’ve done and what we still have to do. So the door knocking and the phone calling and the events and talking to people at events and stuff is the focus.”
As far as campaigns go, Dansey’s has so far remained as predictable and unremarkable as she had hoped.
A tidy succession of power sees the outgoing MP, Labour’s Jamie Strange, out door-knocking with her, and both nodded politely in the background when the Prime Minister Chris Hipkins announced a new police policy in Hamilton last week.
Apart from the odd interview with local media, the scrutiny pales in comparison to her by-election campaign.
But beyond the campaign, where do her interests and expertise lie?
“I’m a small business owner, so I’d like to see us focusing on small business in New Zealand, instead of big multinational companies… they’re important, but our small businesses, I feel like they need a real push at the moment and that’s something I’m really passionate about getting done.
“My background in general was employment and education. So obviously, those are areas I’m very interested in.”
Whatever she ends up with it’s a big step up from the 2020 election where she was not picked for an electorate and managed to secure last place (number 84) on Labour’s list.