Labour MP Chris Hipkins emerges as William Wood's surprise ally after Hitler photo resurfaces

Chris Hipkins has defended William Wood.
Chris Hipkins has defended William Wood. Photo credit: Twitter, Newshub Nation

A senior Labour MP has implored those who uncovered a humiliating photo of a National candidate impersonating Adolf Hitler as a 14-year-old to "focus on the issues".

William Wood apologised on Tuesday after an image showing him sporting the fascist dictator's distinctive moustache and performing a Nazi salute was shared widely on social media.

"The photo was taken when I was 14. It was an error on my part. I apologise for any offence that it may have caused," he said.

The 18-year-old is running for the National Party in the Palmerston North electorate in this year's election, but had his campaign rocked by the distasteful photo earlier this week.

However Health Minister and Labour MP Chris Hipkins has emerged as a surprise ally to Wood, telling Magic Talk's Ryan Bridge the criticism is unfair and nothing more than "a silly distraction" from the election.

"I don't think any of us, if we went back to when we were 14, wouldn't be able to find something we'd done that was a bit stupid or a bit embarrassing - that's just a fact of life," he said.

"Really, I think people should just get on with it. He's actually taken a very mature approach to saying it was a silly thing to do."

Hipkins' comments echo that of the New Zealand Jewish Council, who told Magic Talk that at 14, "you've got a lot of growing up to do".

"We need to allow people to grow up and mature, and not hold them to whatever they did as a 14-year-old," said spokesperson Juliet Moses.

When asked if the Jewish community took offence to Wood's photo, Moses replied: "Not at all".

Hipkins maintains he has no idea who dug up the photo of Wood, but said he'd urge whoever brought it into the public domain to "just focus on the big issues".

"I don't think these kinds of distractions are really helpful in the middle of an election campaign. We've got major issues as a country that we're facing - we should be debating those, not all the silly distractions," he said.

"[Focusing on the Wood photo is] a waste of time. I don't think it adds anything to election campaigns - I would much rather we were debating the issues. I think there's already been far too many distractions in this year's campaign."

These 'distractions' include a pair of high-profile sex scandals - one including National's Andrew Falloon, who's alleged to have sent pornographic messages to five women; the other a year-long affair involving Labour's Iain Lees-Galloway - a leak of private medical details, and a litany of shock resignations.