John Banks to quit
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ACT has confirmed its leader John Banks will not be seeking re-election in the 2014 general election.
He will also stand down as ACT leader when the party holds its annual meeting on March 1.
The party will be seeking a new candidate for Epsom but party president Boscawen says it will not be him, and nor will he be standing for the leadership.
The decision to stand aside was his and his alone, Mr Banks told press conference at Parliament today.
"We needed a circuit breaker. The narrative can't continue to being all about me," he said, in reference to the ongoing legal battles over donations from internet millionaire Kim Dotcom for his 2010 Auckland mayoral bid.
Auckland's High Court yesterday ruled Mr Banks has to stand trial for not declaring donations from Mr Dotcom. The principle issue is whether Mr Banks in fact knew what he represented, in his election return, as anonymous donations were in fact from Mr Dotcom.
Instead. Mr Banks said the "narrative" for ACT needs to be about what it brings to National -led government - an emphasis on encouraging enterprise, low tax and small government policies.
Mr Banks was National MP for Whangarei between 1981 and 1999: asked whether he regretted his return in the 2011 election he responed that "hindsight is a wonderful thing."
"If I could go back in time, yes, I probably decide differently."
An NBR Business Pulse paid subscriber poll in October found former ACT leader Rodney Hide the favourite to succeed Mr Banks in the event of his resignation. Catherine Isaac was second on 19%, Mr Boscawen third on 6%.
On his election fraud trial, Mr Banks said "I am not fearful of the process or where it will end."
His official reason for quitting is to spend more time with his family, and on business interests.
In an apparent goof ahead of this morning’s 11am press conference, Mr Boscawen posted a message on the party’s website confirming the news (the message was deleted, but not before NBR captured it).
“John has decided, after 36 years of public service, that it is time for him to spend more time on his family and his private business interests,” Mr Boscawen says.
Mr Banks will continue as the MP for Epsom and leader of ACT in the meantime.
It has been understood for some time Mr Banks was unlikely to re-contest Epsom in 2014.
The wider question is whether the Act Party puts a less tainted candidate into Epsom in 2014 – speculation here ranges from current party president, the indefatigable Mr Boscowan, or rising star and Auckland Councillor Cameron Brewer.
Today’s press conference follows yesterday’s court decision requiring Mr Banks to stand trial for breaches of the law relating to donations for his 2010 Auckland mayoralty campaign and whether those donations, especially those from internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom, really were anonymous.
Mr Boscawen says the board of Act will shortly be opening nominations for candidates for the 2014 General Election.
“We have a number of very talented potential candidates and we expect to name our key candidates, including a new candidate for Epsom, by the time of our annual conference in early March.”