OPINION: Few people will have sympathy for disgraced Act MP John Banks, but there is something undeniably sad about his demise.
Banks was this week found guilty in the High Court of knowingly transmitting a false electoral return in his 2010 campaign for the Auckland mayoralty. He recorded donations as anonymous, but the court found Banks knew two donations of $25,000 each were from internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom.
The ruling is almost certainly the final curtain for a long and colourful political career, if not public life altogether. New Zealand political life will be better off without the constant sideshow Banks has become, but it's difficult to escape the feeling that at his core was a decent man who set out on a personal road to redemption and just ended up hopelessly lost.
After a childhood blighted by poverty and linked to organised crime of the worst kind, Banks was determined to make something of himself.
Speaking outside court last year, he said: "I stood outside the High Court as a 17-year-old absolutely committed to a lifetime of hard work, honest endeavour and public service to try and balance the family ledger."
That such a noble mission has ended in ignominy is his irresponsibility alone, but no-one can deny the tragedy of his failure. His efforts to balance the ledger were genuine - most notably in his passionate advocacy for animal rights - but his family's reputation now seems certain to be forever in debt.
The difficulty now for the Government is that the stench of corruption emanating from Banks could waft through the upcoming election campaign. With no conviction entered against his name until his sentencing in August, Banks is able to remain an MP until that time. While Opposition parties are calling on him to do the "decent thing" and resign now, they will privately acknowledge that his lingering presence can only be a positive for them politically.
Banks seems determined to explore all his legal options, and will probably seek to be discharged without conviction. Even if that comes to pass, the word "guilty" is now permanently etched into his reputation, and the promise he made as a teenager outside the High Court will never be fulfilled. The 2014 international rugby season begins tonight, and despite all the predictions that the All Blacks will be too strong for an under-strength English side, the butterflies will be fluttering.
The beginning of a new season comes with so many unknowns, and an English side given no hope is incredibly dangerous. They could easily be a banana skin if the All Blacks aren't at their best from the get-go.
- Manawatu Standard
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