Pressure mounts on John Key over Banks-Dotcom donations scandal

by Toby Manhire / 01 May, 2012
The storylining gods continue to conjure up narrative gold for the opposition.

The sharks appear to be circling the cabbage boat.

It increasingly looks as though John Banks will have to stand down – lest he be stood down – from his ministerial portfolios, as the scandal surrounding “anonymous” donations allegedly made to his failed Auckland mayoral campaign in 2010 swirls with ever greater energy.

As John Key readies to face a barrage of questions about the widening controversy at parliamentary question time this afternoon, over at iPredict, the chance of Banks standing down in the next fortnight is now rated 69%.

The Labour party has faced much flak in recent years for its failure to settle on a narrative. Lately, however, the storylining gods have been in theme-heavy mood, and handed them a script ready to read.

Call it sleaze, cronyism, dodgy deals, whatever – the snowball is rolling.

The Banks-Dotcom allegations would fit in that schematic regardless, but it can be linked into a perceptibly wider pool of muck in a number of ways.

First, there’s SkyCity. The same casino company involved in the controversy over the prime minister’s push for a convention-centre-for-pokies deal donated money to Banks’ mayoral campaign, too. And that donation, like the Dotcom contribution, is now the subject of a police investigation.

Second, there’s our old friend the Teapot Tapes. No one needs reminding which two politicians were involved in that extraordinary political set-piece – a symbol of expedient deal making that spiralled into a politics-media drama of epic proportions.

Now the prime minister is refusing demands that he hold Banks strictly to account. His assertion that “there is quite a wide definition of ethics” and that it’s the law that matters is one that may come back to bite him. (Relatedly, Keith Ng’s post this morning is a bracing read.)

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that all of those bits of story inform this morning’s Herald Digipoll, which delivers the first properly bright polling result for Labour in what seems like forever, and at the least a stay of execution for David Shearer.

If it is true, as has been suggested, that Kim Dotcom felt aggrieved at John Banks for failing to help him when he was in prison – which just happens to be in the Epsom electorate – he’s presumably enjoying the spectacle.

And who could fail to enjoy – or to be enthralled by, anyway – John Banks’ latest bit of clownish broadcasting acrobatics.

Speaking to Radio Live last night (listen here), the member for Epsom said (via Herald):

RadioLive: "And what about donations to your campaign? Did you have a relationship with Kim Dotcom?"

Banks: "What's your relationship? This is offensive! He's a married man, what are you talking about?"

RadioLive: "[Laughs] Not a relationship like that."

Banks: "No, look I don't want to go down ... I've had no relationship with Dotcom - he's got a wife."

RadioLive: "Not like that, a business relationship."

Banks: [hangs up]

RadioLive: [calls back]

Banks: "Hello?"

RadioLive: "Hi, I was just wanting to clear up something, I wasn't meaning to ..."

Banks: "Just a minute, just a minute - I have never had a relationship with Dotcom, he is a married man. And I have not been to the SkyCity with the guy. So thanks for your time, thanks for your call."

A wide definition of ethics, then, but a narrow definition of relationships.

Just how long can Key let it all lie?

There’s loads more out there worth reading on the scandal. As ever, the best place to start is with Bryce Edwards’ Politics Daily roundup.
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