Labour's candidate for Rangitata Steven Gibson says he did not mean to cause offence when he referred to John Key as Shylock in a recent social media post and has apologised.
Shylock is a Jewish character out of Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice and invokes anti-semitic connotations.
Steven Gibson was commenting on a Facebook post which had a photo of the cup of tea deal between the then Epsom candidate for ACT John Banks and National Party leader John Key in Auckland in 2011.
Mr Gibson said on Monday he didn't actually understand what the term Shylock referred to, and was repeating what a constituent had said about Mr Key in the context of a bad deal.
"I was only repeating what a constituent had said to me. And it's only now that I realise the connotations of it. To me it was like a Shakesperian reference. I'm sorry people have been offended and I'll take the post down - that's all I can do."
The post has since been deleted.
Labour leader David Cunliffe said he isn't happy about the comments, it doesn't fit with the party's Vote Positive campaign, and he would be speaking to Mr Gibson.
Party president Moira Coatsworth said Mr Gibson has been told in no uncertain terms there is no room whatsoever for that kind of language in Labour's campaign.