Edwards on Banks

has just done a very interesting blog post on . Most will know Brian is a life long Labour activist. Further John Banks actually sent him a defamation suit in 1993, so it is fair to say they are not close. The post is titled “John Banks – a personal reassessment”.

You’ll understand that I was not a fan of the current Mayor of Auckland then and continued not to be a fan, until very recently. On numerous occasions I expressed my dislike of him publicly,  though rather more circumspectly. …

Ten days ago I was one of five speakers at an Auckland Mayoral Fathers’ Breakfast at Sky City organised by Parents Inc., the organisation founded by Ian Grant. Each of us had seven minutes to give an inspirational address on fatherhood to the 750 men present. The Mayor of Auckland, formally hosting the event, spoke first.

I’ve heard a lot of speeches in my time and few have been memorable. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the seven minutes in which John Banks held that audience in the palm of his hand, enthralled. He did not, as his advisors have suggested, talk about his own traumatic childhood. He talked about the troubled kids he has met in the course of his job; kids on drugs, kids in trouble with the law, kids in borstals and prisons, lost boys and girls. A common theme, especially among the  boys, he observed, was the absence of a father in their lives. These were boys without role models, boys who didn’t know how to be men. Fathers mattered and fathers had a responsibility to teach their kids the difference between right and wrong.

Delivered entirely without notes, the short address was spellbinding, extremely moving, and entirely met the inspirational criteria laid down by the breakfast’s organisers. When he returned to the table, I said to him, ‘If you could talk like that during your campaign, you would certainly be the first Mayor of the Super City.’ …

And then Brian deals with the rather tragic events around James Webster:

A week later Banks was on Close Up responding to claims that his son Alex was one of the boys who had egged on 17-year-old Kings College student James Webster to go on drinking vodka, advice which at least contributed to his death.  Banks was only one of two parents to front up about their sons’ involvement. Holding back tears, he told Close Up:

‘I say as a father, there but for the grace of God, go I.  I said to Alex, this is very sad for our families and you’re going to have to stay home and not go out at night until you’ve undertaken a comprehensive First Aid course, so that you understand the dangers of alcohol and you clearly understand that if it ever happens again you’ll be in a position to save a life.

‘It’s a big thing for me to have to live with, but it’s very, very hard for the Webster family. My son now knows from experience that what happened was disastrous and if he was in that circumstance ever again, he would know what to do. And on that fateful night most people didn’t know what to do. That little guy didn’t have to lose his life.

‘Life is about accepting responsibility for the actions of yourself and for the behaviour of your sons. And in this case, you know, we’re having this conversation because, hopefully, we will save one or two or a handful of James Websters.’

Banks, it seemed to me, had practised what he preached. He had fronted up, accepted responsibility as a parent for his son’s actions and set the limits that are part of a father’s duty to his children.

John Banks is a polarising individual, admired by some, hated – not too strong a word – by others. For my part, I have not changed my view of the man I attacked on The Ralston Group, the talk-back host I deplored on Radio Pacific or the Mayor of Auckland in his previous incarnation. But either he has changed or I have. I suspect it’s the former. Certainly the person I have got to know in the past fortnight is a very fine man indeed. Or maybe there are two John Banks, two sides to the one man – the father and the politician perhaps. I’d be happy to have the father continue as Mayor.

I’m glad Brian has got to know the John Banks, that I and others know.

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