In 2004 the political dynamic changed with Don Brash’s Orewa speech. Don said what a good cross section of New Zealand were thinking, New Zealand should be a place where there is one standard of citizenship, and Maoris should stop bludging.
Don’s speech reached out to middle New Zealand who couldn’t understand why Maori were getting so much tax payer largess, and why taxpayers should be funding them. His speech touched a raw nerve that the liberal elite didn’t know existed, and got a huge number of voters to consider voting National. Don stood up to PC bullshit, and for the first time National had Helen Clark under pressure as Prime Minister.
Grant, being a confirmed member of the liberal elite, and having lived most his adult life in the rarified airs of the beltway has apparently not taken on board this lesson. Waitakere Man (and Woman) don’t like seeing their kids miss out so Maoris can get ahead in the queue, yet Grant seems spectacularly unaware of this.
When Phil Goff tried to recalibrate Labour’s position on Maori issues to one that would win him votes, Grant threw a massive tantrum in caucus and forced Phil to back down. Phil wasn’t man enough to tell Grant to challenge him for the leadership or fuck off, and Labour stayed soft on Maoris in the eyes of the voting public.
Identity politics time has past. Maori may be increasing as part of the population, but so are a large number of other minorities who really don’t like seeing Maori expecting to be given something for nothing.
Strategically the Maori vote is Labours, and will return to Labour as the Maori Party leaders retire or are beaten. It is never going to go to National. So strategically the leader of the Labour Party doesn’t need to pander to Maori, as they are not an election winning constituency.
Grant also has to be careful that he doesn’t get branded as being way too PC. As a gay his opponents will be looking for opportunities to brand him as an identity politician, and being soft on Maori will allow them to pin Grant with this label.