National leader John Key is sticking by his decision to rule out New Zealand First from any National-led government, despite a new poll showing over a quarter of National voters want him to rethink his stance.
Mr Key decided in August he was not doing to make any post-election deals with NZ First, saying its leader Winston Peters had misled the public over the $100,000 donation he received in 2005 from expatriate billionaire Owen Glenn.
A TV3 poll tonight shows 63 per cent of National voters support that stance, 27 per cent think he should reconsider and 10 per cent were undecided.
NZ First was recently cleared by the Serious Fraud Office over whether it had misused donations and the Electoral Commission cleared the party's secretary over failing to declare donations in 2007.
The police are still investigating possible breaches of the Electoral Act.
Mr Peters last night said he was still prepared to work with any party, including National and its ally ACT.
But Mr Key's stance today was unchanged.
"The majority agree with the position I've taken. That's because they see Winston Peters as a walking soap opera," he said.
"From the perspective I have, I want to lead a government that's focused on the issues that matter and those are resolving the economy, law and order, health and education.
"I don't want to be distracted by having Winston Peters in a cabinet that is just going to be bumbling from one saga to another."
He said if Mr Peters returned to Parliament he was free to abstain on confidence votes and allow a minority National-led coalition to govern, but he would not get any policy concessions in return.
"I cannot stop a political party abstaining and there are aspects of policy where NZ First and National agree with one another," he told reporters.
"But we are not intending to go into negotiations or discussion with NZ First post the election."
He reiterated that he believed given a choice NZ First would support Labour.
Polls still put a National-ACT-United Future block ahead of any possible Labour-led block, but a swing of 2 to 3 per cent might let Labour and its support parties govern again if they can woo the Maori Party.
But Mr Key said National would rather remain in opposition than do a deal with NZ First.
"That was always the risk when we took the principled decision we did and I have no regrets about that."
An average of recent polls puts support for NZ First on about 3 per cent, well below the 5 per cent it needs to return to Parliament.
Prime Minister Helen Clark today told reporters she had heard Mr Key's decision was not universally supported within National and was the subject of growing "consternation".