Support slips for National and John Key

The gloss is wearing off John Key over the dirty politics saga, today's poll suggests.

While National is still riding high at 50.8 per cent, the poll shows it taking a 4.3 per cent hit after the release of Nicky Hager's book Dirty Politics linking Key's office to political attacks by Right-wing blogger Cameron Slater.

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Key has also lost ground as preferred prime minister, dropping by the same amount as the party vote to 50 per cent. Just as worrying for National, its performance rating has taken a hit as well, with fewer people rating the Government's performance at 8 or more out of 10 than our last poll two weeks ago.

The big surprise in the poll is David Cunliffe, who has risen 3.3 percentage points as preferred prime minister to 15.4 per cent - still well behind Key, but the result suggests he has not been harmed by the fallout from Dirty Politics, which Key has labelled a Left-wing smear campaign.

Labour's vote is also up, but at 26 per cent there is not much for the party to celebrate.

Click here for full poll results

National would still be in pole position to form the next government but the party's strategists will be alarmed that it has shed support in the opening weeks of the campaign.

National's nightmare scenario is seeing its support slide to 45 per cent or below, which could see it tossed out of office, depending on which minor party holds the balance of power.

The rise of NZ First leader Winston Peters could see him as kingmaker, with today's poll putting his party on 4 per cent. Peters, who is 70 next year, has the odds in his favour of crossing the 5 per cent threshold for winning seats in Parliament.

The poll follows a chaotic start to the campaign after Hager's bombshell allegations that a senior staffer in Key's office was a conduit to Slater's WhaleOil blog, infamous for publishing salacious details of Auckland Mayor Len Brown's extra-marital affair.

Hager's book also revealed the close relationship between Slater and Justice Minister Judith Collins, who fed the blogger information, including details about a public servant who later received death threats.

Peters yesterday threw petrol on the fire by claiming that people close to Collins approached him about negotiating with her after the election if she was leader.

"I had backdoor approaches myself from the Collins camp," Peters told TV3.

He said a person had told him: "If you can't talk to John Key after the election, can you talk to her?"

Peters said he believed the move was an attempt to undermine the prime minister which Collins was likely to be aware of. Collins is widely believed to harbour ambitions for the leadership.

"I didn't think the bag man was coming without her consent," Peters said.

Asked yesterday if he believed Collins had always been loyal to him, Key said: "All that I can demonstrate is what I know and the answer to that is yes."

In a strongly-worded statement last night, Collins said Peters was wrong and she had never approached him. Nor had she asked anyone else to approach him. She accused him of making it up.

Click here to see full poll results if you're having trouble viewing on a mobile phone.



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