Where to now for Richard Worth? The MP may yet face criminal charges in a court of law. He will as likely not. Regardless, there can now be little question about the verdict of the court of public opinion. And that verdict is driving the politics towards one inevitable conclusion - that Worth at least be suspended, if not expelled from the National caucus in reasonably short order.

The publicising of separate and detailed accounts from two women of alleged sexual misconduct on his part have tipped the political scales to the point where National MPs have little option but to eject him.

Not to do so would leave them with a walking embarrassment in their midst. National would be tainted - not by what Worth is alleged to have done, but by being seen to be allowing him to retain the status and perks which come from being an MP.

Worth maintains he is innocent of any crime. He has reminded everyone that a person should be presumed innocent until proved guilty.

But politics is all about perception. Putting the police investigation and the question of charges firmly to one side, the perception is still all negative from National's point of view.

The Prime Minister has accordingly effectively begun setting in train procedures for expulsion by accepting Labour's offer to view Worth's text messages to one of the women plus the log of his phone calls.

If they stack up, then Worth will have been found to have culpably misled his leader - an unforgivable sin.

That is all Key needs to move against the MP who will have precious few colleagues willing to go into bat for him.

In talking possible expulsion, John Key is effectively offering Worth a final chance to resign from Parliament of his own accord and leave the institution with some dignity still intact.

Worth's hiring of public relations consultants suggests such messages are not getting through. The statement released in his name through Star Public Relations on Thursday evening was breathtaking in its defiance. Its language was certainly not that of someone about to throw in the towel and creep away from Parliament for good simply because it might suit the National Party.

No sooner had his missive landed than the ground started to shift from under him, however.

First, Labour leader Phil Goff tabled in Parliament a separate statement from an Indian woman and Labour Party activist detailing improper sexual advances on Worth's part over a period of months.

That was followed yesterday morning with the Herald's publication of an account of a sexual encounter between Worth and a Korean businesswoman in March, which is now the subject of the police investigation following a subsequent complaint from the woman.

It was this complaint and his office's subsequent check on its veracity which prompted the Prime Minister to strip Worth of his portfolios on Tuesday night and sack him from his post as a minister outside Cabinet.

Announcing the decision the following morning, Key intimated - although he did not say outright - that Worth should use the two weeks' leave he has been granted from Parliament to come to the obvious conclusion that he could no longer remain an MP.

That Key stopped short of demanding Worth quit politics could be explained on two counts. First, no one can force Worth to resign as an MP. The Prime Minister would look rather powerless if Worth thumbed his nose at him and refused to budge.

Second, Key did not want to buy a fight with Worth. It would have been a fight in which Key could be the only winner. Nevertheless, the Prime Minister would not have wanted a protracted bout which at best would be an unwelcome distraction and at worst start chewing up National's political capital.

All of that has been rendered somewhat academic by the subsequent turn of events. The case for expulsion is now far more compelling - not that it wasn't pretty compelling on Wednesday.

Key toughened up his language accordingly yesterday.

Putting as much distance between National and Worth is now the Beehive's priority. However, the two weeks' grace offered to Worth also gives Key some breathing space - as does the fact that Parliament is not sitting next week. That means no question time for Labour to try and score points over Key's handling of the whole sorry episode.

The Beehive's political management has improved since the debacle surrounding Christine Rankin's appointment to the Families Commission. But there is still a sense of the Government reacting to untoward, unexpected events, rather than managing them when they happen.

The Prime Minister made things more difficult for himself by continuing to refuse to confirm the sexual nature of the allegations against Worth.

He could have said early on that the allegations were of such a nature and referred further questions to Worth or the police. That would have at least pricked the bubble of rumour and speculation.

However, apart from not wanting to jeopardise any potential criminal proceedings, Key did not want get ahead of the police who have said little.

But that approach left Key declaring that Worth had failed to meet the high standards that he, as Prime Minister, had set for ministers without being able to explain how those standards had been breached.

Goff too has come in for his share of criticism, much of it unfair. It was Key - not Goff - who raised the Indian woman's account of Worth's alleged pestering by way of a remark to the Labour leader in Parliament.

Normally, the main Opposition party would leave the Government to stew in its own juice. However, Labour was actually tied up in the whole affair by virtue of one of the women going to Goff to complain about Worth's behaviour.

Goff's subsequent private call to Key to tip off the Prime Minister was naturally treated with suspicion in the National camp.

Labour was gunning for Worth at the time. So why would Goff have done National a huge favour of keeping the most juicy material of all out of the public domain?

Paradoxically, Goff's interventions - the latest being the tabling of the Indian woman's version of events - have been of huge help to Key.

Labour has been less useful in questioning why the Prime Minister's office failed to check out Goff's information with sufficient vigour and instead relied too much on Worth's denials.

Key says Goff was not forthcoming with the evidence to corroborate the woman's claims. Goff says he was.

Such bickering aside, if you are going to plunge a knife into a colleague's back, it is hardly surprising that things get messy.

Witness Helen Clark's firing of Dover Samuels back in 2000. It took a week of checks, consultation with Maori and testing of public opinion before Clark dumped her Minister of Maori Affairs following historic allegations of under-age sex.

The Samuels case had negligible impact on the new government's subsequent fortunes. The same applies to Richard Worth's fall from grace.