Hard News by Russell Brown


#JohnDotBanks and all

So John Banks, helicoptered in to the Act Party, seems set to administer the electoral death blow to that party by virtue of apparent actions committed while he was still a member of the National Party. If I were an Act party stalwart, I'd be aggrieved too.

The donations affair has a relentless feel. Barely had Banks tried to swat away the question of his 2010 Auckland mayoral campaign's apparently undeclared donation from SkyCity, than Campbell Live brought us the strange spectacle of Banks trying to swat away the fact that named witnesses insisted he knew, and had conspired to conceal, the fact that Banks had knowingly received "anonymous" donations from Kim Dotcom.

The Herald - via the Herald on Sunday's David Fisher -- followed up the next day, with some more detail.

And then there was Banks' performance on Q+A, in which he insisted he had done nothing wrong, but refused to answer a series of direct questions about alleged wrongdoing. Even the most compromised Christians do not usually have quite such a bad Sunday morning as this.

The sting for National is not only that all of this lends itself to a Hollow Men narrative of secret donations and influence-peddling, but that it is linked to a troublesome proto-scandal about the government's accommodations for the SkyCity casino opeartors.

It was not surprising, then, that the Prime Minister included a dread condition in his expression of support for Banks: he had accepted Mr Banks' word on the matter. We are presumably relatively close to Mr Banks being cast under the No.9 bus.

Andrew Geddis explains what the problem is, or might be.

If Banks is either shamed or obliged into resignation as a member of Parliament, there will be a by-election. Act's candidate will presumably be Catherine Isaac. If National signals that its voters should support her, she will probably be elected. If Paul Goldsmith actually campaigns, and therefore wins, he will surely be elected and the MMP maths will probably award National an additional list seat become the MP for Epsom, the next candidate on National's list comes in and National goes from 42 to 43 electorate seats.

Labour, presumably, would put up David Parker again in Epsom, with a mandate to campaign. His approach will be interestesting to see, given the mutterings about Shearer's leadership.

Oddly enough, the former leader of Act, Rodney Hide, has popped up in two places: an overlong and poorly laid-out -- but undeniably surprising and well-written -- column for the Herald on Sunday. If this replaces Deborah Coddington's column, I'm game for the switch. All the more so given Hide's comments about Banks' predicament to NBR today. He might be quite good value this year.

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