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Rachel Smalley: ACT and National can wash their hands of John Banks

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| Monday, June 09, 2014 7:59 AM

John Banks leaving the High Court last week (Edward Swift)

John Banks leaving the High Court last week (Edward Swift)

I suspect it’s been a very tough weekend for John Banks. Not only will he have absorbed the impact of being found guilty of filing a false electoral return, but he'll have been deciding whether or not he should resign.

He told Jamie Whyte, the leader of ACT, that he would consider it over the weekend and would tell him today. Well, Banks jumped the gun, caught Whyte on the hop and announced last night that he’s resigning. 

By resigning, Banks loses his salary. It’s an annual salary of somewhere in the vicinity of $150,000. He's entitled to stay on in Parliament until the house rises and he’s sentenced - that’s on August 1. But the implications of him doing so would have been so detrimental for ACT and National. If he's convicted in August, then Banks would have been gone anyway - he’d leave Parliament immediately, kicked out, gone for good. 

He’s not a man, though, who can be forced to do anything that he doesn’t want to. But the pressure, I think, clearly went on him to resign. That said, I think that pressure was self-imposed. I don't think Jamie Whyte had any influence over Banks or his decision, nor do I think the Prime Minister played a part in it either.

Key, I think, should have pushed him to resign sooner. If Banks had stayed, it would have hurt ACT and National. It would give the opposition parties a daily free hit, and it’s a chance to lump the Government’s troubled MPs in together - Judith Collins, Peter Dunne, Maurice Williamson and John Banks - and collectively use it as a brick-bat to illustrate the falling standards of MP behaviour under John Key.

This was a verdict that related to Banks' mayoral campaign, but it was also a judgement on Banks’ character. That’s why his continued presence as an MP had the potential to be so damaging to the right and to the prospect of a centre-right coalition winning a third term. 

There really was only one option, and that was for Banks to resign. 

It doesn’t matter what happens on August 1 now. If Banks is convicted, it won’t reverberate through the Prime Minister's office or ACT just weeks before the country goes to the polls.

He's now a lone-wolf, a fallen right-wing soldier. Regardless of how brutal it may sound, ACT and National can now effectively wash their hands of John Banks. 

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