Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia says any Labour attempts to undermine her party's vote by painting it as a National Party ally during the campaign could jeopardise post-election discussions with Labour.
The Maori Party will discuss the role it might play in a future government at its annual conference today.
It has done little to quell speculation it is serious about talking to National, but Ms Turia said it would be "mischievous" of Labour's MPs to use a tactic they used in 2005 of claiming a vote for the Maori Party would be a vote for a National government.
"It would make it very difficult for us to work with them in the future."
A vote for the Maori Party was not a vote for either Labour or National.
"We are not left or right - we are here to advance the aspirations of Maori people in the interests of this country, and that's got nothing to do with Labour or National."
Asked if she trusted John Key and Helen Clark, she said "no", citing Labour's Seabed and Foreshore Act and National's plans to abolish the Maori seats.
"They play politics with what are significant and serious issues for us."
She said there was "no doubt" the caucus wanted influence in the next term and it would discuss at the conference what shape that might take.
"I will work with the devil if I have to, if it means I can achieve our people's aspirations. Whichever devil it is - Labour or National - we will work with them."
The party has done little to quell ongoing speculation it could work with National. Asked how she would justify this, given many Maori were Labour supporters, she said she would be doing Maori a "disservice" if the party did not talk to National.
"After all, if we want to achieve our people's aspirations in an MMP environment we should be speaking to everybody. I think our people trust us to know we wouldn't do anything that would act against their interests and that's the most important thing to us."
She said National's history with Maori "was not all bad" and included major initiatives such as kohanga reo, kura kaupapa, whare wananga, and in health and social services.
"National don't go out like Labour do and say, 'We've done this for you and that for you,' because, basically they don't want the rednecks in their party to know what they've done for us.
So Labour go out and say, 'We've done this for you, and that for you,' and that's why our people actually think Labour's given them everything. They really think everything they've got has been through Labour."
National's policy to abolish the Maori seats from 2014 would depend on whether it had enough support to do so, Mrs Turia said, and "we'll soon see what they say after the election, if they don't get 51 per cent".
The Maori Party has measures to reduce poverty among its key campaign planks, with policies to remove GST on food, zero tax for people earning less than $25,000 and introducing a universal child benefit.