Gareth Morgan claims there was no outrage when a woman used the same expression, "lipstick on a pig", to describe Labour's leadership change, days before he said it.

Public relations expert Trish Sherson used the reference on August 13, a week before the Opportunities Party leader used it in a tweet, it has emerged.

Speaking to Ryan Bridge on RadioLive's Sunday Brunch show - in audio that appears to have been removed from the site - Sherson said: "Here's a question though, and I think all voters need to consider this, when they think about the Jacinda effect, can you actually put lipstick on a pig and be successful? Let's not forget this."

She was asked "who's the pig" to which she replied: "I would say the left block at the moment is the pig."

She added: "I think she's a fantastic politician and very clever. But, the left is still in the same shambles, even worse shambles than when she took over. And Labour have still got the same dearth of policy and problems there."

"Voters have to look beyond 'Wow, we've got a woman and she is a real star, she's fantastic.' But if you look underneath Jacinda and this lovely, shiny gloss we've got on the left block, they are still in a state of absolute shambles."

Bridge said that to sum up the last 15 minutes of his interview with Sherson and politician Vernon Tava, "You can't just put lipstick on a pig and expect something to change. And the Greens should have been far more promiscuous from the start".

Advertisement

They both replied: "Absolutely."

Sherson owns Auckland PR company Sherson Willis and is often approached for political comment.

Speaking to Chris Lynch's Canterbury Morning's show today Morgan said it was ironic that the same term had been used to describe Jacinda Ardern a week earlier by a female host on a radio talkback show but barely raising an eyebrow.

However all the "fragile flowers" lying in wait on social media took umbrage when he used the same words because he is a male.

Said Morgan: "It's a pretty standard figure of speech and here's the irony; it was used a week earlier when Jacinda first came in, it was used on talkback show by one of the hosts actually - it's on Radio Live I think - and she said exactly that, that is all Jacinda is, is lipstick on a pig and she didn't manage to get any press but of course I'm male so if a male says it then all the fragile flowers - it's like scattering chooks really, isn't it - and they sit on Twitter and they just look for the first opportunity to take umbrage and amplify it so they become the centre of the story."

He said this was now the nature of Twitter but thanked those who stirred up the controversy saying it had been "fantastic" for the party.

Billboards were even altered to capitalise on the furore with lipstick and pig featuring prominently.

Morgan's tweet, which pointedly said Jacinda should be required to show she's more than lipstick on a pig, drew flak from all quarters.

Advertisement

It was branded ill-advised, misogynistic, horrendous and a major lapse of judgment.

The Prime Minister said he wouldn't be able to work with a person demonstrating such an unacceptable attitude, while Ardern believed the attack was firmly aimed at her.

Morgan later explained his choice of words on social media saying it was not a personal attack but a broadside at the established political parties.

He said both National and Labour had caused the rise of inequality and it needed more than infatuation with Ardern to solve the issue.

Sherson could not be reached for comment.