Conservative Party leader Colin Craig has put up his credentials as a cook specialising in meat dishes to try to disprove claims by Green co-leader Russel Norman that Mr Craig believed a woman's place was in the kitchen.
Mr Craig's lawyers yesterday sent Dr Norman a letter claiming he had defamed Mr Craig for comments he had made at the Big Gay Out and demanded a public apology and retraction. In his speech, Dr Norman had said Mr Craig "thinks a woman's place is in the kitchen and a gay man's place is in the closet".
Dr Norman said yesterday that he would not retract and hit out at Mr Craig in return, saying running to the lawyers whenever he was criticised would have a chilling effect on free speech and political debate.
"Colin Craig now has a track record of making allegations of defamation if someone says something about his views that he does not like. I don't want robust political debate to be chilled by the potential actions of defamation lawyers."
Mr Craig defended his decision to take action, saying his party's policies made it clear he believed women should choose for themselves whether they stayed at home or worked.
His own life was evidence of that - his wife had been his business partner for the past 15 years, and he cooked about six times a week including lunches.
"I know how to cook. I'm pretty famous for my roasts and other meat type of dishes. I'm not going to claim I'm an expert on salads, but I do them pretty well too."
He also believed gay people could choose how to live their lives. He acknowledged it was an election year and robust debate was to be expected. However, he found Dr Norman's comments offensive. He would decide whether to take further action, including going to the courts, after receiving Dr Norman's response.
Dr Norman said his comments were made in a political speech and were intended to illustrate views of women and gay people that harked back to 1950s New Zealand. "Colin Craig has said gay relationships are not normal and that New Zealand women are promiscuous. I think those views are offensive."
It's just not intelligent to pretend that homosexual relationships are normal.— Colin Craig (@ColinCraigNZ) July 26, 2012
Prime Minister John Key said he had never bothered suing in his political career and observed Mr Craig would need a phalanx of lawyers to deal with the flak if he made it into Parliament.
"What a waste of time. It's a matter for him but if I took legal action every time I thought somebody had wronged me, my lawyers would be busy too."
There is a higher threshold to prove defamation in a political context after the Court of Appeal upheld a defence of qualified privilege for political expression in a case David Lange took.