National Party President Peter Goodfellow has mounted an attack on Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters, saying National had "dodged a whisky-swilling, cigarette-smoking, double-breasted and irrational bullet".
Speaking at the National Party conference, Goodfellow said that in hindsight National had a lucky escape in Peters' decision to side with Labour after the election last year and to send National into Opposition.
Senior MP Nick Smith later echoed Goodfellow's sentiments, saying his worst time in politics was when he was around the Cabinet table with Peters in the 1990s.
"Yesterday on the radio I heard the Green Party griping about eating dead rats. My message to them is get used to the taste.
It brought back bad memories. As much as I, like you, have been frustrated about the election outcome, I share the President's view that our party dodged a bullet."
Goodfellow told the gathered members not to dwell on the outcome. "While it was not the will of the people or what we wanted, it is a reality we accept and we have moved on with determination not to be in Opposition too long.
"We must learn the lessons of the last election but not dwell on what could or what should have been. The next election is, after all, only two years away."
It comes after Peters took aim at National leader Simon Bridges this morning, predicting he would not be in the job for long and mocking him for what Peters said was a belated discovery that he was Māori and liberal, advocating matters such as medicinal marijuana reform.
Speaking on Newshub's The Nation, Peters said Bridges had discovered much of his past "a bit like Columbus discovered America – by accident".
"All of a sudden he's going to be a liberal … all of a sudden he decides that he is a Māori. Nobody knew that before he got there. Then he starts looking for his iwi. And now he has discovered marijuana.
"You can't have too many discoveries like this before people start saying, 'Yes, but what does this man really think?'"
Goodfellow has been the National Party President since 2009 and is expected to be re-elected.