The apparently rehabilitated Banks who'd promised to show a kinder, softer, more inclusive face had almost succeeded in dimming the memory of his provocative, insulting comments over the years: homosexuals, Asians, women, Maori and Polynesians - at one time or another, the combative Banks has managed to enrage most of us.

Of course, he's a more complex animal than that implies; one who'd emerged from troubled beginnings (a criminal dad and alcoholic mum) to become the rich, hardened and somewhat obsessive man he is today. He has cold showers to remind himself of his poor days, seems to prefer saving animals to human beings, is fanatically tidy, and a strict (but loving) father.

I'd admired him recently when he'd been one of the few parents to do the decent thing after finding out that his son was at a party when James Webster, the King's College student, drank a bottle of vodka and later died.

In contrast to the parents of the boy who had supplied the liquor, and who chose to hide behind a legal veil, Banks took responsibility and fronted up to the Websters.

He'd had little choice, of course; it was the only way to limit the damage that would have been generated by the inevitable publicity. But I believed him when he said his response had nothing to do with his public role and everything to do with being a father.

Banks had been closing the gap on Len Brown since the latter's disastrous handling of his mayoral credit card use. The problematic spending (relatively minor and since repaid) turned out to be much less damaging than Brown's theatrics - the cutting up of his credit card on TV, and the cringe-making breast-beating and forehead-slapping.

Perceptions, and political fortunes, can turn for the most unexpected reasons.

In Christchurch, the incumbent Bob Parker had all but relinquished his hold on the mayoralty before the earthquake breathed new life into his flagging fortunes, much as 9/11 made New York mayor Rudy Giuliani the widely praised hero of the crisis, more than doubling his approval ratings. As Al Sharpton quipped at the time, "We would have come together if Bozo was the mayor." Jim Anderton would no doubt agree.

John Banks' appearance on Close Up last week may not have been an emotional game changer, but it ought to have served as an instant disqualifier. If anyone had any doubt about his unsuitability for the job, his utterances during the mayoral debate with Len Brown should have sealed it.

The newly unified, culturally diverse Auckland Super City demands a mayor who understands and represents all its parts, but it's clear that Banks not only doesn't know or understand South Auckland; he actively disdains it.

Banks blamed Auckland City's liquor problems on South Aucklanders (which seems a bit rich considering the well-publicised alcohol problems of well-heeled teenagers at the posh King's): "A lot of the people buy the booze on Bairds Rd in Otara, there are five liquor outlets there, they load themselves up, they come into the city, they get boozed on the street and cause trouble for the police," he said.

As for giving Brown a job on the new council, "it certainly wouldn't be a leadership role because he's not up to it, and we don't want South Auckland replicated across the North Shore and across all of Auckland ... his city has been a social disaster for Auckland."

I can't imagine why Len Brown hasn't managed to solve, in his three years as Manukau mayor, the problems that have been nearly four decades in the making, and which Banks contributed to, as a former National Cabinet minister.

Banks' record shows he's capable of changing his mind when public opinion runs in the opposite direction from his own. He dismissed police pushing for earlier closing of bars back in 2008 but now supports it.

And the fact that Banks and his Citizens & Ratepayers allies knocked back attempts to push for tighter controls of off-licence liquor outlets as recently as last October hasn't stopped Banks from repeating loudly and often how he now intends to reduce cut-price liquor outlets by a third.

Everyone has a mental checklist of what they'd like in Auckland's first Super City mayor. But a critical requirement must be the ability to represent all of Auckland - not just the rich, white bits that Banks seems to be pitching to. Auckland's future success won't be decided by how well we do in the North Shore and Remuera; it will be measured by our performance in South Auckland.