Is Banks broken or just bruised?

JOHN HARTEVELT
Last updated 14:28 30/04/2012

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Dear oh dear.

John Banks has really blundered his way through the emerging story of his 2010 mayoral campaign donations.

At first, he claimed he couldn't recall the extensive contact between himself and Kim Dotcom that was alleged by the flamboyant German billionaire.

Then, he resorted to bizarre bluff and bluster, attempting to laugh off the straight-forward questions that would establish how much he knew about Dotcom's $50,000 donation.

Finally, in the same Sunday morning interview, he settled on what seems to have become his longer-term strategy of looking the other way.

Despite saying he has ''nothing to hide, nothing to fear'' Banks will simply not address any of the detail and instead just gives a broad assurance that his 2010 returns were lawful.

From there, whatever fresh allegations emerge, it likely becomes a case of Banks sitting tight and hoping like heck that police agree with him.

His case at this point seems perilous - he has not denied the key allegation that he telephoned Dotcom to thank him for the donation.

But there are always peculiarities in the law that politicians, being the law-makers, are most adept at wriggling their way through.

Even if Banks does sneak out of this one without official censure, he has utterly failed on numerous counts of political judgement.

In the first place, why was he so keen to have the Dotcom donation hidden? At the time of the 2010 Auckland mayoral campaign, Dotcom was scarcely known to the wider public.

The donation probably would have become a bit of a story after Dotcom was arrested and charged over online piracy claims earlier this year, but without evidence of anything particularly untoward between he and Banks, it would have been interesting rather than sensational. Better political instincts would have led Banks to get the maximum number of donations possible out in the open.

Similarly, when Banks was asked about his connections with Dotcom after his arrest, he really ought to have been more forthcoming.

Banks left an impression that he scarcely knew the billionaire when in fact there was, it now emerges, significantly more to it than that.

And in the last couple of days Banks has again stumbled and bumbled his way through trying to explain his way past Dotcom's recollections of the donation.

If he had, from the get-go of the story on Friday night, put up a brick wall to all detailed questions and stuck firmly to the one-liner that he stood by his 2010 return, it would have been tidier.

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Sure, failure to specifically refute the Dotcom claims would have been troubling, but staying above the fray would have been far preferable to the embarrassing ''I can't recall'' performance on Friday night and the following ''cabbage boat'' nonsense on Sunday morning.

Altogether, Banks has carried on a series of woeful missteps through this story. Will it simply bruise or completely break him?

Follow John on Twitter.

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