Prime Minister John Key's leadership is "imploding" over the revelations in Nicky Hager's Dirty Politics, NZ First leader Winston Peters says.
''It shows a lack of standards, a lack of leadership and (National) will haemorrhage every day this goes on. The excuse is it happened five years ago; try that in a court of law...and see what the judge or the jury thinks of that.''
The book was putting ''serious sunlight on politically nefarious activities', Peters said at a multiparty political debate in Christchurch today.
''This is about democracy and transparency. And unfortunately for the National Party, they have been seriously found out.''
Prime Minister Key was trying to defy political gravity and it was derailing a public focus on major public issues, Peters said.
Key should have sacked his minister Judith Collins ''a long time ago'' over perceived conflict of interest in meetings with the Oravida food company, Peters said.
He estimated a quarter of National voters would be ''seriously concerned about the degradation of their brand'' following the release of Hager's book, which details National's top-level contact with Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater.
''They don't like that sort of dirt and underhand activity and they are shocked to find that they have been part of it, by association," Peters said after the meeting.
He also criticised the ACT Party for ''being out there, investigating and attacking the leader of New Zealand First''.
He predicted his party would benefit from a voter backlash but declined to say whether the Whale Oil revelations would stop NZ First working with National post-election.
"We are going to use all our energies and all our resources, and all the passion and loyalty of all our hundreds of thousands of people, to make sure we succeed on election day.That is our only interest in this campaign," Peters said.
MEDIA WILL 'EAT CONFETTI'
Peters predicts the media will be forced to eat poll-driven confetti when they see how many new candidates the party brings to Parliament.
Ron Mark standing for the party again was "fantastic", Peters said after the Christchurch debate.
New Zealand First would "hit the ground running with some experienced candidates like Ron and some exciting new candidates as well", he said.
"A lot of people are going to get in and surprise you people, because we're going to turn your polls into confetti."
Peters would not comment on a leaked party list indicating incumbent MPs Andrew Williams and Asenati Lole-Taylor are set for a steep and possibly terminal drop down the New Zealand First list.
- The Press