NZ election 2020: National MPs 'still have an affection for Winston Peters', says Winston Peters

NZ First leader Winston Peters says there are MPs in the National Party caucus who "still have an affection" for him - and they're telling him National has a dirty campaign planned.

But the party's new leader, Judith Collins, says there will be none of that. 

Both leaders appeared on Newshub Nation on Saturday. First up was Collins, just four days into her leadership of the National Party. An entire chapter of Nicky Hager's infamous book Dirty Politics was dedicated to the 'Crusher', particularly her association with Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater. 

She told Newshub Nation she will "absolutely" be running a clean campaign.

"I've told the caucus this, and the staff in the National leader's office and the staff in the whole of our parliamentary wing is being told this - I will not put up with any of us talking about other MPs' personal lives, their medical situations, anything like that. I will not have them do it. They go after families, they're gone."

Peters said Collins has "an extraordinarily difficult job" ahead of her, with the party losing a dozen of its current MPs in September and undergoing two leadership changes in as many months.

Collins has previously contested the leadership and been defeated.

"You can't be the choice of only five people a few weeks ago to be the head of a united caucus," said Peters.

"And they're still leaking. They're still leaking to me. The reality is of course that there are some people in the National Party who still have an affection for Winston Peters. 

"They tell me the truth... they leak about the dirtiness and the filthiness of the campaign that was coming my way, even in 2017."

Winston Peters and Newshub Nation host Tova O'Brien.
Winston Peters and Newshub Nation host Tova O'Brien. Photo credit: Newshub Nation

In 2017 Peters blamed National for leaking details about his superannuation payments, only accepting two years later the ministers he blamed - Anne Tolley and Paula Bennett - were not responsible after all. 

He said like Collins, he wouldn't stand for any shenanigans from his MPs in this election campaign. 

"I've never allowed a NZ First person to ever attack a spouse or family or anybody on their medical record in my party's long history... If you can't win straight up front, then dirt will never get you there."

Peters is open to working with National if the vote puts them in a position to choose the next Government. Collins said National's position hasn't changed - at this stage, they're still ruling NZ First out.