John Key's blanket dismissal of working with Sir Roger Douglas has prompted the former Finance Minister and architect of Rogernomics to say the Prime Minister has his head in the sand.
On Monday, with the leadership of the Act Party in the spotlight, Mr Key said he would be happy to work with anyone as leader of the party - except Sir Roger.
The headline of "Anyone except Douglas, says Key" in yesterday's Herald prompted Sir Roger to post on social media sites Facebook and Twitter: "Why is Prime Minister John Key so afraid of me?" He later issued bright yellow flyers that juxtaposed a portrait of a contented and gentle-looking Sir Roger with a man at the beach with his head buried in the sand with the caption: "John Key, looking to catch Australia."
Sir Roger said the flyer was the first in what would be a series of releases - under the banner of "Who really cares" - comparing himself to the Prime Minister.
"This slogan hits the area they're least comfortable with because they think we're only for the rich pricks.
We're actually the only ones who care. We're the only ones with policies that help out the disadvantaged," Sir Roger said. He has enlisted the help of advertising guru John Ansell, infamous for his polarising billboards in 2005 that included slogans such as Iwi/Kiwi and Tax/Cut.
More recently, Mr Ansell designed a series of billboards for the Coastal Coalition objecting to the Government's solution to the foreshore and seabed issue, which depicted Mr Key wrapped in a Maori robe under Iwi/Kiwi headings.
When asked about the image of the head in the sand, Sir Roger said: "It's because Mr Key knows he's nowhere near as ambitious for New Zealand as Sir Roger is."
He did not expect an offer from Mr Key to be a minister and "I don't think I'd want it".
Mr Key decided issues based on how well the solution would go down with the public, rather than the greater good of the country, Sir Roger said.
"For every issue he confronts, he never asks: 'What should I do in the interests of New Zealand?' He asks, 'What possibly could I sell to the public'?" The flyer compared Sir Roger's record on the issue of privilege to Mr Key's record, who it said brought back "corporate welfare, bailouts and handouts" while increasing "private sector privilege".
Mr Key ruled out Sir Roger - whose far right views are considered extreme - from being a minister in his Government before the 2008 election.