Resignation the honest action

ACT MP John Banks has been found guilty of filing a false electoral return, something he did not do as the MP for Epsom, but as a failed Auckland mayoral candidate before he returned to Parliament.

But in a strange twist of justice, it appears Mr Banks, a former police minister, can remain in Parliament and the Government will carry on as normal.

Well, perhaps, not so normally if it has to rely on the vote of a disgraced MP to survive until Parliament rises for the election - something it is scheduled to do on July 31.

With valedictory speeches to hog some of the now limited debating time available in the House, the Government has nothing to fear from the verdict given yesterday.

Leader of the House Gerry Brownlee said Mr Banks had not been convicted and therefore could remain in Parliament.

The Epsom MP will probably apply for a discharge without conviction at his sentencing on August 1.

Mr Brownlee dismissed questions about whether the Government would hold an early election, saying it was not really an option.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has summed up what many will be thinking in his reasoning for the election being held on the earlier date of September 20.

Prime Minister John Key's decision to throw New Zealand into an early election was all about the John Banks' court case. Mr Key was scared of the verdict, Mr Peters said.

''John Key hoodwinked New Zealand into believing he had sound reasons for calling an early election, but in reality he was manipulating democracy.''

Mr Key has always maintained he has not read the police report. Yesterday, the Prime Minister reiterated his stance of not commenting on the situation, adding that through the Maori Party, the Government has a clear majority and there will be no impact on its majority position or its capacity to govern.

The charge of ''transmitting a return of electoral expenses knowing that it is false in a material particular'' relates to three entries in the electoral returns for Mr Banks' failed 2010 Auckland mayoral campaign.

The donations were recorded as anonymous but the Crown said Mr Banks knew two donations of $25,000 each were from internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom and one of $15,000 was from SkyCity.

Justice Edwin Wylie said he was not persuaded of the charge on the SkyCity donation but he was sure the charges had been proven in relation to Mr Dotcom's donation.

Outside of the court, Mr Banks was unrepentant, saying: ''There's a wonderful 1930s song, `On To Every Life Some Rain Must Fall', and for me the rain is still falling''.

His team was disappointed with the verdict, surprised by the result and now had to return on August 1. Asked if he had done something wrong, the MP replied, from day one he said he had never filed a false anything, let alone a false return.

Mr Banks has had a long, and somewhat chequered career as a politician with as many highlights as lows, although the latest low is undoubtedly the worst.

He played the political game hard, and was not above smearing his political opposites with the worst of allegations.

Yet, somehow he manages to hang on in Parliament after a verdict in which the judge said he was ''satisfied beyond reasonable doubt'' Mr Banks either had actual knowledge of the Dotcom donations or he deliberately did not check the electoral return so the donations could be transmitted as anonymous.

Messrs Key and Brownlee appear to have managed the political system to keep the vote of Mr Banks secure before Parliament rises for the election.

And remember, the Epsom cup of tea between Messrs Key and Banks ensured Epsom remained an Act-held seat, propping up the Government's majority under MMP.

Mr Banks maintains he is honest. He dragged himself up out of a childhood of abject poverty, the driving force for his business and political success.

For a man to end his long public career with a guilty verdict must be galling but the very least he can do is resign and restore a glimmer of respectability to a tainted process. It is the only honest thing to do.

 

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