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Act New Zealand leader Don Brash was forced into defensive mode over the so-called teapot tapes during last night's TVNZ minor parties leaders' debate as NZ First's Winston Peters challenged Prime Minister John Key to come clean over the incident.
Mr Peters, who is fighting to return to Parliament and is resurgent in recent polls, put in a particularly strong performance when he was asked about the recording of Mr Key's conversation with Act's Epsom candidate John Banks last week - which is rumoured to include a discussion about rolling Dr Brash.
Mr Peters said the content of the recording was in the public interest and it was made in "a legal context where it was a total PR stunt".
"That's the price you pay for fooling around with the public and fooling around with democracy."
Mr Peters said the tapes contained evidence "which says the party that dumped the last Act leader is looking to dump the present Act leader and in doing so they've also dumped down on all the people".
He said Mr Key's handling of media questions about the incident was poor.
"He lost his rag in front of the people of this country and he's spat the dummy in front of the people who've loved him, mainly the media.
"I think that a leader who has got grit and courage should never do that.
"Above all, if he's going to be a bloke that has a beer with the boys and drinks out of the bottle, how about being a real bloke and come clean."
Dr Brash said he did not care about the content of the recording and had spoken to Mr Banks about it several times.
"He's assured me that we're going into this election together and that I'm the leader."
He said he would "absolutely" serve a three-year term if he made it into Parliament and later told reporters he hoped to contest the 2014 election as well.