OPINION: John Banks' political comeback will go down in history as one of the worst.
At a loose end after losing the Auckland mayoralty in 2010, Banks' return to Parliament the following year always had the look of a "boys-own" adventure cooked up by himself and Don Brash to resuscitate the terminally ill ACT Party.
In the process they saw themselves as riding to the rescue of National, which was running short of electoral allies.
National will be ruing the fact that Banks didn't just slip quietly into retirement.
Today's court ruling that he knowingly filed a false electoral return doesn't just leave Banks' reputation in tatters. It raises serious questions about how police initially got it so wrong when they decided not to lay charges.
And it dents Prime Minister John Key, whose passiveness over the allegations brings to mind his predecessor Helen Clark, when she was confronted with allegations against her former minister Taito Philip Field.
Field later served time after being convicted of bribery and perverting the course of justice.
National's opponents were quick this afternoon to call for an early election but there's no burning reason for National to accede to those demands.
Banks will not be sentenced until after Parliament rises for the general election meaning the Government's numbers are unaffected.
But the questions about Key's handling of the affair will only get louder on the campaign trail - especially if he has to go cap in hand back to Epsom voters and ask them to keep ACT alive one more time.
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