The Judge in the Banks case has not yet entered a conviction as he could discharge John Banks without conviction at the sentencing on 1 August. This means that Banks would not lose his seat. There is a reasonable chance the Judge could grant this, as the offence he has been found guilty of was not committed while Banks was an MP.
However that would not change the fact that John Banks has been found guilty, and if he continues as an MP until 1 August (or beyond), the Opposition will try to paint the Government as being held up by an MP found guilty of an (local body) electoral offence.
The reality is that the Government doesn’t need the vote of John Banks. With him they are 64-57 on confidence and supply and without him they are 63-57. Banks going would have some potential political impact as it would mean that any laws voted on in the next two sessions would need the support of the Maori Party. However I’m not aware that there are any likely votes on laws that they opposed.
I don’t think the Judge has actually helped the Government by delaying the decision on entering a conviction. No
wt that it is the Judge’s role to care about the impact on the Government. I’m just saying I think it would have been cleaner to make the decision as the same time as the guilty verdict.
Constitutionally there is no question that Banks is entitled to remain an MP until such time as he is convicted, and he has not yet been convicted – only found guilty. Many people get discharged without conviction.
However politically I think the honourable thing to do would be to accept that a guilty verdict has been rendered, and to resign from the House of Representatives before sentencing and the decision on a discharge. Not doing so would be a significant distraction for the Government, which should be talking about the economy, better schools, more operations, welfare reform etc, rather than having to be defensive on an MP remaining in Parliament after he has been found guilty of an offence which would result in a loss of his seat once if a conviction is entered.
This is a decision purely for John Banks, not the Government. He has every constitutional right to stay on until a conviction is entered, if it is. But I think John Banks came into politics with very honourable motives, and I think resigning would be in the same spirit.