John Armstrong

John Armstrong is the Herald's chief political commentator

Banks tells of hurt over 'wild' allegations

John Banks looks ahead after police found no grounds for prosecution following a complaint about his mayoral campaign. Picture / Jodi Rose
John Banks looks ahead after police found no grounds for prosecution following a complaint about his mayoral campaign. Picture / Jodi Rose

John Banks slams his fist into the palm of his hand. It is all about adding theatrical effect to what he is about to say.

"It's called fight back. It's called fight back," he repeats, before adding another word - "hard".

The Act leader and Epsom MP has said little since police last month found no grounds for prosecution following a complaint about donations to his Auckland mayoral campaign in 2010 and the accuracy of his election return.

He now has plenty to say about the three months he spent in limbo while waiting for the results of the police investigation.

"I found it deeply offensive, much of what was said, written and broadcast during that time because, for all my faults, anyone who knows me would never believe I would go out deliberately and falsify a return," Mr Banks told the Weekend Herald.

"I told everyone who would listen on day one that I had nothing to fear or hide from the inquiry."

Nevertheless, he took the precaution of hiring Auckland QC David Jones and prepared for the worst.

He also kept a low profile, to give the matter deference "because no one is above the law".

He says the episode took its toll, though he does not say how. But he adds: "We have not been going to bed every day with Aspro and lemon drink.

"From where I come from it is hurtful when wild, reckless and untruthful allegations are made about you ... There wasn't a squeak about how Len Brown raised and [filtered] money through a trust. Not a squeak. Not a police investigation. No wild and reckless allegations.

"I think I can say if I had not been through 3 decades of very hard knocks ... anyone else probably would not have got off the floor."

However, he doubts he was the prime target of Labour's attacks.

"It was more about destabilising the John Key coalition than sending me on my way. It was highly politically charged and vexatiously ignited from the Parliament every day, but I can take that ..."

Asked if he now regretted his contacts with internet millionaire Kim Dotcom which caused him so much strife and embarrassment, Mr Banks would only say: "You move on. You live and you learn. And I'm always learning."

Mr Banks says he had not contemplated quitting politics during the investigation. "When you are knocked down it is how fast you get up. This is a very tough game for stayers. I have had 14 elections and 11 victories at the polls. I don't take support for granted. I have a huge responsibility to work for the people of Epsom and I am not going to abandon that."

He does regret the Government did not update the Local Electoral Act provisions covering campaign finances when it put in place empowering legislation setting up the Auckland Council.

"We had never seen anything like this before. Two candidates who ran million-dollar campaigns. My regret is that we had to raise funds under the rules put in place by Labour in 2001 - and not one that matched the rules covering general elections."

- NZ Herald

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