Call it last, call it the foundation: Georgie Dansey is 84th on the Labour Party list for the 2020 election. Here she explains how she got there.
What does it take to come last on the Labour list? It’s a bit of a story, so if you’re feeling tl;dr then just know that I’m queer, a mother, a unionist, and if five and a half million people vote for Labour, then I’ll be an MP.
Growing up in a conservative household, politics wasn’t something that was really discussed, and supporting National seemed like a default position. Rumour has it my Dad even delivered leaflets for the Conservative Party in central London. I can’t confirm or deny whom I voted for when I turned 18.
I was a baby teacher fresh out of uni when I was invited along to a Labour women’s event at a hairdresser. I wandered along with a friend, and suddenly was in this room filled with woke women super passionate about changing the system. I immediately signed up to help the young woman candidate with her campaign and it wasn’t long before I was driving around Hamilton looking for “good” fences. For anyone who hasn’t been intimately involved with election signs, “good” fences are a rare commodity, and even rarer is a “good” fence owner willing to have a candidate’s mugshot in prime view.
After six years campaigning with Labour, I, like many other millennials, got caught up in the bright light of Chlöe Swarbrick and ended up running an election campaign across two electorates for the Green Party. However, as a friend and mentor (and ex-Labour MP, because that’s how we roll) said to me once I rejoined the Labour Party, “I always knew you were a watermelon, Georgie!”
It’s sort of in my DNA though. Over the last few years as I’ve learned more about my whakapapa, both Māori and Pākehā, I’ve found more and more of my ancestors have been pretty heavily involved in politics. On my dad’s side I’ve got the Danseys (more about them later) and on my mum’s side my ancestor William Charles Heaton-Armstrong, who was an MP in England in the early 1900s. He was originally a conservative candidate then switched sides to the liberals. We’re watermelons from way back.
This last year has been crazy. I’ve been buzzing around going to meetings and joining committees left right and centre. Well, mainly left of centre. I found out how hard it is to be involved in politics if you’re a parent. (Shout out to Kiri Allen and Willow Jean-Prime. Oh, and Jacinda.) My own first lady (Ruby) is slightly less into fishing than Clarke but does do a lot of childcare and makes a lot of packed lunches. It turns out that once you’re on three committees and four trust boards which all meet monthly, you have a lot fewer evenings at home …
So what else have I learned along the way? I’ve learned that politics can get really messy, and even at a grassroots level people forget what we are doing it for. But hey, he tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata; the most important thing is looking after our communities, and our communities start with each other. It starts with the volunteers who turn up every weekend to door knock and phone call, and if we don’t treat them with the mana and manaakitanga they deserve, we sure as hell can’t do it for anyone else.
And lastly, how did I feel when, after all this, I saw my name on the list? To be honest, up until that moment I didn’t realise how committed I was to politics. Before, I mentioned my dad’s family, the Danseys. My great-great-grandfather led the Māori Battalion and campaigned for Māori rights after the second world war, and my great-uncle Harry Dansey was a (slightly controversial) race relations commissioner and author back in the 80s. I come from a long line of Māori activists and that fight definitely lives on in me. Growing up Pākehā, I didn’t really have much experience in te ao Māori and sometimes I still feel whakamā about identifying as Māori – walking the line between being white-skinned and being Māori is tricky.
So this list thing has sealed the deal. I don’t know what the next three years will bring, but just know that you’ll be seeing my name again for sure. But hopefully by next time a little further up the list.