Key Points:

Wanganui Mayor and RadioLive host Michael Laws has earned the dubious distinction of delivering the worst New Zealand insult of the year.

Among Herald readers, his calling the King of Tonga a "slug" when Taufa'ahau Tupou IV died was considered only marginally worse than Prime Minister Helen Clark labelling former National leader Don Brash "cancerous" after he attacked Labour for "corrupt" election spending.

Laws also said the King was "a despotic beneficiary of the New Zealand taxpayer" but the slug comment was considered the worst insult by 24.4 per cent of readers, compared with 22.2 per cent who thought Helen Clark went too far in comparing her then political opponent to a tumour.

The man responsible for the third-worst taunt is well known for trading insults with his enemies, so it was hardly a surprise when Sir Bob Jones took a pot-shot at fellow Dragon's Den multi-millionaire Annette Presley.

But 21.5 per cent of readers thought Sir Bob struck below the belt when he said the Slingshot founder "drove men to homosexuality".

New Zealand First MP Ron Mark was close behind (20.3 per cent) for giving National's Tau Henare the finger in Parliament (and earning TV3 a three-day ban on filming in the House for airing the exchange).

Male and female readers reacted differently to the insults; more men than women were offended by the Prime Minister's "cancerous" (24.1 per cent to 20.3 per cent), but more women than men thought Laws' "slug" the pits (26.3 per cent to 22.5 per cent).

Sir Bob's "driven-to-homosexuality" line raised the ire of more women than more (24.2 per cent to 18.6 per cent), while more men thought Mr Mark made an error of judgment when he shot the bird (22.5 per cent to 18.4 per cent).

Aucklanders appeared not to take the finger too personally (16.5 per cent), but it got the thumbs-down from the rest of the country (22.1 per cent).

"Slug" was also a more acceptable insult in Auckland.