Labour Party leader Andrew Little has rejected former Labour prime minister Helen Clark's comments that left-leaning parties need to command the centre to win elections.
As parties on the far right continue to surge in support across Europe and Australia, Miss Clark told TVNZ's Q+A programme at the weekend that parties of the left needed to widen their appeal.
"To win an election in New Zealand or probably any Western society you must command the centre ground.
"You have your strong core of supporters but you must get centre ground voters.
"I think I was successful in that for quite a lot of years.
But Mr Little told Morning Report today he rejected "centre" as a hollow term because people used it without explaining what it was.
He said most voters did not identify themselves as left, right or centre - they saw issues they wanted addressed or fixed.
"Call it what you like, when I talk to people, people talk to me about issues, people don't sit around thinking 'where am I on the political spectrum today'.
"That might be of interest to some small number of policy wonks.
"Actually, most people think about issues."
There was a National Party in government that described itself as centre but the country was going backwards "in so many respects" such as access to the health service and the ability of people to buy a first home, he said.
"I'm campaigning to improve those things, to change them, and to change the government in order to improve them. That's where I'm campaigning - call it what you like."