Matt McCarten on politics

Matt McCarten is a Herald on Sunday political columnist

Matt McCarten: Penance depends on party of political sinner

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John Banks developed memory blanks when questioned about campaign donations. Photo / Janna Dixon
John Banks developed memory blanks when questioned about campaign donations. Photo / Janna Dixon

Ok, here's a riddle: two working-class boys from humble beginnings find God and go into politics guided, they say, by their Christian beliefs.

They make a name for themselves by supporting moral conservatism and opposing liberal secularism.

One joins the Labour Party to serve the poor. Unfortunately, as time passes he convinces himself that when the needy come to his door seeking help, it is only polite to accept reciprocity. They show their gratitude by working for love on his property portfolio.

The other joins the National Party, presumably to be an example to the poor that they, too, can become part of the establishment if they work hard like him. He convinces himself that when he goes to the door of the rich seeking financial help, it is polite to promise to help them with their needs.

Both men don't believe people completely understand this custom of Christian giving, so ask the recipients to keep their arrangement between them and God.

But it seems the good Lord is having none of it.

Every aspiring Christian is taught key biblical messages to live by. One favourite none of us should forget is: "Be sure your sin will find you out."

And found out they have been.

Taito Phillip Field had constituents give their labour as a trade-off for immigration help. John Banks asked a wealthy Aucklander for $50,000 and then apparently offered, according to Kim Dotcom, to help with his immigration case.

After the chequebook came out, Dotcom said that his new best friend suggested it'd be best if the money was split into two amounts so he could pretend it was anonymous. It's pesky when people want transparency.

When Brother Taito was exposed, the National and Act parties screamed for blood. Although our self-claimed martyr pleaded innocence, it seemed God felt a lesson was needed and off to jail he went.

When Brother Banksy's paymaster got into a bit of bother, it seemed our MP denied ever having met Dotcom, or at least started developing a number of memory blanks. Did he dine at Dotcom's home three times? Did he even ask for the money, despite two cheques from Dotcom arriving in Banksy's campaign account the day after? Did he phone up and thank his donor?

It got more pathetic as the days went on: Banksy was accused of asking Dotcom to book discounted accommodation in Hong Kong. He also had a memory blank over a luxury welcome gift and more money donated from SkyCity, even though its chief executive put it in his hand. Then he had us believe another anonymous donor knew exactly how much Banks' radio advertising bill was, and paid it.

Like Jesus' favourite disciple, Dotcom must have felt galled being denied so many times by his bought man.

Saint Peter was mortified by his denials when confronted. Banksy didn't even blush.

This week the police reported Banks admitted to asking for the money, knowing he received the money and signed his electoral return that omitted the identification of Dotcom's money. But, because Banks claimed someone else filled in the form, he's not guilty.

It'd be interesting to see what would happen if a fraudster tried that in court.

Apparently if a conservative politician denies they did anything wrong, then PC Plod goes, "Right you are, sir. Have a nice day." When a Labour politician tries the same trick, Plod humphs: "Whaddya take me for? You're for the nick, mate."

John Key, who in 2008 ruled out having Winston Peters in a National-led government because he denied soliciting secret donations Owen Glenn said he gave him, now welcomes Brother Banksy, who did a similar thing, alongside him at the public trough. Everyone knows Banks behaved in a manner that demeans our society. Cops won't do anything if a misbehaving politician is needed by the government.

After the winks and smirks are over between the Prime Minister and the Act leader, they might consider this passage from St Matthew: "For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?"


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