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ACT leader wants John Banks gone by Monday

Saturday 7 Jun 2014 5:15 p.m.

John Banks' week is going from bad to worse, with his own leader calling for him to resign.

ACT Party leader Jamie Whyte has given the Epsom MP until Monday to decide, after a judge found him guilty of knowingly filing a false electoral return.

The party's trying for a fresh start with Dr Whyte, its new leader, but it's stuck in its old ways thanks to Mr Banks, and is once again mired by scandal, damage control and internal division.

Dr Whyte has put the hard word on Mr Banks: He wants him gone by Monday. But the old guard – ACT's figurehead Richard Prebble – would prefer he stayed.

"Even his enemies agree that he's a very good constituency Member of Parliament. Why should [Epsom] not have their Member of Parliament?" says Mr Prebble.

Determined to show the party faithful who's boss, Dr Whyte seems to have pulled Mr Prebble in line too.

"I always support the leader," says Mr Prebble.

Mr Banks has been found guilty of knowingly filing a false donation return, but because he won't be convicted for two months he can keep coming to work and keep receiving his $150,000 salary.

If Mr Banks decides to go, Parliament is likely to vote against an Epsom by-election so close to the election proper.

ACT's Epsom candidate David Seymour is doing his best to distance himself from Mr Banks.

"It's a serious thing to break the law and that's what the judge has found," he says.

At a candidates' debate on The Nation today there was glaring omission – National's man Paul Goldsmith.

"Every time that Paul Goldsmith fails to front in this campaign, we're going to remind people about the dirty deal with this bag of wholemeal flour - this is going to sit in place of Paul Goldsmith," said Labour candidate for Epsom, Michael Wood.

Prime Minister John Key has already attended a fundraiser for Mr Seymour, and Mr Goldsmith's absence confirms a deal has been done.

"I'm looking for every endorsement I can get," says Mr Seymour.

So, once again, the Epsom farce is on.

Ultimately, as its electorate MP, it's Mr Banks who decides whether he'll stay on in Epsom.

But to do so would be a distraction for ACT, a distraction for the Government and a hard sell for the voters paying his salary.

To that end it's a decision that seems to have been made for him.

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