Prime Minister Helen Clark has sparked controversy with a claim that a National government would have had "blood on its hands" by causing the deaths of as many as 60 Kiwi soldiers in Iraq.
The claim, with its echoes of the 2005 campaign in which foreign policy drew a sharp dividing line between National and Labour, has been greeted as "hysterical" by National. Leader John Key said Miss Clark should focus on more important issues.
But Miss Clark is refusing to resile from her comments - though comparisons with Australia, which had as many as 2000 troops serving in Iraq at any one time, suggest her claim that up to 60 Kiwi troops would have returned "in body bags" is out of proportion to any likely New Zealand commitment.
As I've said in my previous post on this, the PM has shown a new level of dishonesty, which only came to light when she had to make the "back of an envelope" admission when questioned by the media. She has shown that she is quite happy to take unreliable and unproved data to the electorate, merely to score political points. It's just as well that, to quote the PM, "This is an election about trust".
UPDATE: John Armstrong adds his twoppence worth in the Herald - key paragraphs:
Anyone still wondering just how negative Labour is willing to be in this election got their answer yesterday. Judging by the Prime Minister's attempt to cover John Key's hands with the blood of New Zealand troops who never went to Iraq, it's "extremely negative". and....
National described Clark's attack as "hysterical and desperate" and suggested the Prime Minister should concentrate on issues that really matter.