Winston Peters says if Helen Clark wants to win the United Nations' top job, she needs to be careful how she deploys her legendary ruthlessness.
Ms Clark's campaign to be the first female Secretary-General has hit its first serious bump, with an article in Foreign Policy magazine claiming while heading the UN Development Programme, Ms Clark "left a trail of embittered peers and subordinates" and "ruthlessly ended the careers of underlings in her quest to advance her candidacy".
Ms Clark herself has called the allegations "totally fabricated".
Prime Minister John Key and Labour deputy leader Annette King have expressed continued support for Ms Clark, and now New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has stuck up for his old boss.
"The UN needs some serious reform and greater accountability, and if she's trying to do that, then she'll upset some people and [stand on] a lot of people's toes, but that's what exactly she should be doing," he told Paul Henry this morning.
"This is a campaign by her opponents to put her away, with classic notoriously American character assassination -- that's how they always do it. There's nothing new and novel about this. But the fact is she is going there with a pretty good record of reform."
Mr Peters spent time as Foreign Minister in Ms Clark's Labour-led Government. He says they had a good working relationship, but felt Ms Clark was often unduly harsh on her own MPs.
"Remember David Parker being stood down when he was utterly innocent? That was a disgraceful episode when he was pack-hunted by the media. Dover Samuels was again, totally innocent."
Mr Samuels was stood down from his ministerial portfolios in 2000 after allegations of sexual misconduct. He was later cleared of any wrongdoing. Mr Parker was stood down after allegations were made about his business past, but was cleared after a Companies Office investigation.
"You've got to be ruthless to get some things done," says Mr Peters, "but you've got to be careful just how ruthless you are or aren't."
He sees her biggest hurdles as the Russian veto, and resistance to change.
"They remind me of the EU -- top heavy, a law unto themselves, throwing down money like an eight-armed octopus."