One of the things we have learned from the John Banks fiasco is that John Key will apparently put up with any sort of behaviour in his ministers so long as it's not actually a matter in which criminal charges are pending.
It is tempting to think how far this principle goes.
Presumably, then, if Mr Banks was accused of stabbing the members of a mime troupe in broad daylight on Wellesley Street before flying off in his helicopter and then taking potshots at people from his chopper with a sniper's rifle, but vehemently denied accusations by the harried survivors of mass murder (even in the face of witness statements and CCTV footage putting him at the scene), Key would only stand him down as a minister once formal charges were laid.
That's the absurdity of taking the word of a minister over what appears on the face of it to be evidence of a potential offence. More astonishing is the fact that Banks simply fails to grasp the completely untenable position he is in and the position he has left the Prime Minister in. This matter will consume Banks in the end, and the only questions that remain are how long Banks remains floundering and wriggling on the harpoon the media have him impaled on, and who Banks takes down with him.
It is also absurd for John Key or his MPs to claim that the last Labour government set some sort of precedent for how wayward ministers ought to be dealt with, and that there's really nothing out of the ordinary going on. John Key has often claimed that he holds his cabinet members to a higher standard of conduct than ministers under the last Labour government. It seems, however, that the nice Mr Key might have been tricking us.
From a political perspective it doesn't matter any more whether John Banks faces criminal charges. The damage to his career is terminal, and his credibility is ruined. He has behaved shamefully, and the arguments made on his behalf that what he has done is okay so long as it's not actually illegal are frankly disgraceful. The expectations we hold of our MPs go beyond not breaking the law.