John Key and Winston Peters condemned each other yesterday in separate television appearances that suggest they are beyond the point of no return - even if New Zealand First survives the election.
The National leader said he could conceive of no possible circumstance in which he would go back on his promise not to work with New Zealand First after the election.
"Absolutely not," he told Shane Taurima on Marae.
The New Zealand First leader on Agenda referred to Mr Key's failure to disclose the true number of Tranz Rail shares he had once held.
"If the test is to look a man in the eye and trust him, I doubt if I can do that now, given his own criteria," he said.
If it is inconceivable for Mr Key to now contemplate working with Mr Peters, it is inconceivable that any Government he led could be formed on the broken promise of working with him. It was a huge promise made 34 days ago when Mr Peters' world was caving in.
The following day the Serious Fraud Office announced it was investigating donations through the Spencer Trust and the day after that, Mr Peters stepped aside as Foreign Minister during the investigation.
While Mr Peters' misfortune has been almost entirely of his own making, he could be back in contention if the SFO clears him before the election. And Helen Clark would be under strong pressure to reinstate him Foreign Minister.
The Herald-DigiPoll last week put New Zealand First on 2.8 per cent and the TV3 poll last night on 3 per cent - effectively no movement.
The SFO, when it began the investigation, said it would act expeditiously. It should make an announcement about the Spencer Trust before the election if at all possible.
Mr Peters made threatening noises about the SFO on Agenda yesterday: "No one is powerless in my business and I intend to take them on legally if I have to."
Given the way Mr Peters has been able to turn a damning privileges committee finding against him into a political weapon, he could make a serious impact in the polls with a finding of "cleared" during the election campaign.By Audrey Young Email Audrey