ACT unlikely to hold Epsom whatever the verdict in Banks' election fraud trial - Edwards

John Banks

UPDATE / OCT 17: ACT is unlikely to hold its single seat in Parliament, whatever the verdict in John Banks' election fraud trial, says Otago University political science lecturer Bryce Edwards.

"It would seem impossible for John Banks to recover from this," Dr Edwards told NBR this morning.

"Rightly or wrongly his reputation is now besmirched and the people of Epsom will be too swayed by the is scandal to trust him with their party in 2014."

And Dr Edwards doubts an alternative ACT candidate would fly.

"ACT has treated Epsom as an asset to pass around among different personalities and its voters are probably tiring of being passed around like that," he says.

"It's hard to imagine John Boscawen or a younger candidate being able to hold Epsom.The party is too damaged."

With the party polling around 1%, ACT needs to hold Epsom to have a presence in the next Parliament.

At the 2011 election, Mr Banks' prospects were boosted when he had a well-publicised cup of tea with Prime Minister John Key - signaling to National voters they should give the ACT candidate their electorate vote.

Mr Key continues to back the ACT leader.

John Banks resigns as minister

OCT 16: ACT leader John Banks has confirmed he has stood down from his ministerial positions.

This follows a decision in the Auckland District Court, in which a judge says there is a prima facie case to put the ACT leader on trial for allegedly filing a false local body electoral return.

“Last week I indicated to the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff that I would offer my resignation should the matter relating to my 2010 Mayoral Electoral return be committed to trial,” Mr Banks says in a statement.  
“I have spoken to the Prime Minister this afternoon and he has accepted my resignation.  
“I believe the decision in the Auckland District Court was wrong and I will be contesting the charge.  However I do not want this to be a distraction from the Government’s programme. 
“I intend to continue in my role as ACT Leader and MP for Epsom, and ACT will continue to support National on matters of confidence and supply.  
“My focus will now be on clearing my name and serving the people of Epsom,” Mr Banks says.
Mr Banks (66), who has been remanded at large until December 17, says he believes Judge Phil Gittos is wrong and his Queen’s counsel David Jones says he will plead not guilty.

Epsom MP Mr Banks, who was twice mayor of Auckland, is being privately prosecuted by retired accountant Graham McCready in relation to donations made by Kim Dotcom and Sky City to his 2010 mayoral campaign.

Opposition MPs clamoured in Parliament today to have Mr Banks suspended until the outcome of his trial, which is not expected until next year.

He was minister for small business and associate minister of commerce.

In a separate statement Mr Key says he has accepted Mr Banks’ offer to resign as a minister.

“I have spoken to Mr Banks this afternoon following the Auckland District Court’s decision that he should stand trial for alleged fraud over his electoral returns following a private prosecution,” Mr Key says.

“Mr Banks indicated to my Chief of Staff late last week that in the event the Judge ruled against him, he would tender his resignation as a Minister,” Mr Key says.

“It is with regret that I announce today that I have accepted that resignation, and will be advising the Governor-General accordingly.   

“Mr Banks maintains his innocence but realises this is a distraction for the Government and has offered to resign as a Minister.

“Even though the events occurred before Mr Banks entered Parliament in 2011, this is totally the right call and I have accepted Mr Banks’ offer to resign as a Minister.

“Mr Banks has a number of legal avenues to explore, including whether to appeal the District Court Judge’s decision or to plead not guilty at the trial.

“Without prejudging the outcome of these legal avenues, if Mr Banks is successful on appeal or proved to be not guilty at trial, it is my intention to reinstate him as a Minister.

“Since the 2011 election, Mr Banks has been an able, competent and reliable Minister.

“Mr Banks has advised me that he intends to continue to meet the terms of the Act Party’s confidence and supply agreement with the National Party.

“I will be reallocating Mr Banks’ portfolios to existing Ministers and will announce this in the next few days,” Mr Key says.

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