John Armstrong 's Opinion

John Armstrong is the Herald's chief political commentator

John Armstrong: Banks was never going to stand again

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John Banks. Photo / Dean Purcell
John Banks. Photo / Dean Purcell

Trial or no trial, John Banks was never going to stand again in his Epsom electorate at next year's general election.

As he admitted at his press conference this morning, his returning to Parliament in 2011 after a 12-year absence was a mistake. The place had changed markedly - and for the worse in his view. He was the same old "Banksie". But being your party's solitary MP is no fun. Banks' unhappiness was obvious even though he made obligatory statements that he would not be giving up the seat and would be running again.

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The timing of the inevitable reversal of that stance has simply been brought forward by by virtue of Banks' High Court ignominy and the impossibility of him remaining the "face" of Act.

The key decision, however, is really Banks' accompanying announcement that he is also standing down as Act's leader. Again, that was inevitable given Banks' date with the High Court. Again, the latter has hastened proceedings and will enable Act to elect Banks' successor at the party's annual conference at the beginning of March, thus giving him or her some eight months to transform Act's fortunes.

The crucial question now is whether National will, again sanction an electoral accommodation in Epsom to get at least one Act MP back National Parliament and thus slightly increasing National's chances of holding on to power. Or whether National will cut its losses with Act and in instead strike a deal with Colin Craig's Conservatives and hand that party an uncontested electorate.

What was never in doubt was that Banks would stay in Parliament until the next election, thus preserving the National Government's slim majority without having to rely on the Maori Party to pass legislation.

Banks is a fighter. He would never give Labour and other Opposition parties the satisfaction of him meekly walking away from Parliament; before he had to do so.

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- NZ Herald

John Armstrong

John Armstrong is the Herald's chief political commentator

Herald political correspondent John Armstrong has been covering politics at a national level for nearly 30 years. Based in the Press Gallery at Parliament in Wellington, John has worked for the Herald since 1987. John was named Best Columnist at the 2013 Canon Media Awards and was a previous winner of Qantas media awards as best political columnist. Prior to joining the Herald, John worked at Parliament for the New Zealand Press Association. A graduate of Canterbury University's journalism school, John began his career in journalism in 1981 on the Christchurch Star. John has a Masters of Arts degree in political science from Canterbury.

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