15 Sep 2008

Peters not an albatross for Labour, says Clark

7:13 pm on 15 September 2008

Prime Minister Helen Clark is not worried that the National Party will argue that a vote for Labour is a vote for Winston Peters.

National has said it will not form a government by going into coalition with the New Zealand First leader.

The issue of donations to the political party is the subject of three investigations, including one by Parliament's privileges committee, which resumes this week.

The committee is considering whether Mr Peters should have declared expatriate businessman Owen Glenn's $100,000 donation toward legal expenses incurred by Mr Peters.

Mr Glenn says it was Mr Peters who personally asked him for a donation, while Mr Peters maintains the approach was made by his lawyer.

Miss Clark told Morning Report on Monday that she does not believe Labour is carrying a political albatross around its neck.

"I don't think we are carrying that. I'm sure that Mr Peters will follow the usual campaign practice of recent years of saying that he will make a decision after the election," she says.

"I don't think he's campaigning on the basis that he's absolutely wedded to one (party) or the other."

Miss Clark says she is sceptical that National would stand by its shunning of Mr Peters after the election.

However, National Party leader John Key says Miss Clark is effectively trying to cut Mr Peters loose now that the election campaign has started.

Mr Key says she is trying to distance herself from Mr Peters after the donations saga.

"If you look at the scenario that could theoretically be painted where holds the balance of power, he's not going to be coming to National, he's going to Labour. So they are joined at the hip.

"The National Party is not going into government with New Zealand First."

A One News poll puts Labour support at 35% and National at 53%.

A Television New Zealand poll released on Monday found that 78% of respondents did not believe Mr Peters had been open and honest about the funding his party has received. As well, 58% believed Miss Clark had been too soft on Mr Peters.

Miss Clark said a "devastating" development in the donations row would be necessary to sack Mr Peters.

Brian Henry, the lawyer for Mr Peters, is due back before Parliament's privileges committee on Tuesday. Mr Henry's evidence could be crucial for the committee.