Winston Peters labels David Seymour 'political cuckold' as electioneering gets ugly

It was the clash we've been waiting for: quips and barbs galore at Parliament on Tuesday as Judith Collins took on Jacinda Ardern in the debating chamber for the first time as National leader.

But no one escaped the spray of insults fired by Winston Peters.

Ardern took a dig at Collins' long-held leadership ambitions during their first face-off in the chamber.

"I know the member is probably going to reference light rail to the airport," Ardern said. "I would say to the member that, as she will well know, sometimes it takes a little longer than you'd like to get what you want."

But then Collins quoted Ardern back at Ardern, asking if she stood by her statement in July last year, when she was asked whether light rail was definitely going ahead, and had replied: "Oh yes, yes, yes, absolutely."

It wasn't the only biffo. On Monday, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters threatened to hit and hospitalise ACT leader David Seymour, retaliation for Seymour saying Peters will soon need a careworker.

On Tuesday came round two.

"He spends enough time in the hospital without my intervention," Seymour said. "If his punches are as empty as his political promises, I've got nothing to worry about."

"You're talking about a political cuckold that has got so much integrity he has to get another party to prop him up," Peters fired back.

Peters had used an early morning speech to have a go at Seymour's infamous twerking, calling him "the twerp tweaker from Epsom".

Then came the friendly fire - popping shots at his own governing partners. He accused the Greens of being "away with the fairies" - and he had worse words for his Labour Cabinet colleagues.

"I've never had three years so difficult, trying to manage circumstances when you're surrounded by inexperience," Peters said.

And then combined - the prospect of Labour and Greens in Government.

"You want to take out some insurance in this campaign to ensure you don't get the nightmare Government which I know you're going to get."

Ardern played it cool when asked if she would allow Peters to keep "taunting" Labour until the election.

"I would not describe it in that way. It's an election period," she told Newshub.

But the Greens are far more willing to get in the ring.

"They are chaotic in Government," co-leader James Shaw said. "Having a force for chaos at the heart of Government is really unhelpful."

Tuesday marked the most glaring example we've seen so far of the governing parties intentionally splitting off from each other.

The election campaign has begun in earnest, with all parties desperate to re-establish independence.