OPINION: John Banks must see the plank that now stretches out in front of him for what it is. The shortest, least ignominious route to his departure from politics.
For the disgraced former ACT party leader, convicted of a plenty-serious electoral offence while an Auckland mayoralty candidate, the plank doesn't represent a descent into a shark pool. If anything, it's an escape from it.
Within Parliament he is now merely a carcass that will attract thrashing attacks.
He will become, even more than he already is, a means of discrediting a Government that opened his way back into Parliament and benefited from his supporting vote.
The fact that the court has delayed not just sentencing, but entering a conviction, until after Parliament is done for the year means Banks faces no automatic ejection in the meantime.
It could be said that since he was not seeking re-election, and the Government doesn't desperately need his supporting vote as long as it has the Maori Party sufficiently onside, a few weeks either way scarcely matters. Hardly anyone is taking that line, however.
Nor should they. The offence has been proven. On the morality of the matter that's the bottom line.
Banks' offence was neither the least nor the worst to have been pinned to a senior political figure in recent decades. But it is an emphatic career-ender.
It wasn't simply that he was playing too clever-clever with donation rules, because these exist for good reasons of public accountability.
The court found him guilty of getting his then-supporter Kim Dotcom to dissect his donation into pieces small enough to escape disclosure rules. That he did so speaks to character, and the electorate understands that.
The Government has already endured scandals involving Maurice Williamson and Judith Collins. A feeding frenzy around the Banks case is as inevitable as it is badly timed. Bad enough in Banks' absence. Worse in his twisting presence.
There's also the small point of the initial complaints against Banks having been dumped because of an assessment, now clearly disproven, that the evidence was insufficient.
Banks was never really a good fit for the ACT party in the first place - though this won't silence the sound of its political rivals' cock crows each time it distances itself from him in the coming weeks.
- The Southland Times
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