That was the threat made by National's rich and rabid ultra-right backers to cuckoo Don Brash into the party leadership in 2003. And according to this morning's Independent [offline], they now seem to be playing the same game again:
Expect National Party funding to evaporate overnight with the new-look Opposition headed by John Key and Bill English.
That's the word from National's multi-millionaire backers who say most of the millions of dollars pouring into the party's coffers in the past 18 months have been donated because of the "Brash factor" - the expectation former leader Don Brash will stay in charge and drive National Party policy.
On Monday afternoon, that all dried up.
Brash's wealthy commercial backers will not offer similar support to Key and English - at least in the short-term. They will spend the next year assessing the new team, and its policies and attitudes to business, and only then decide whether to open their cheque books.
And people say donors aren't trying to buy policy. These people clearly think they are, and aren't afraid to jerk the financial chain when it looks like they might not get what they want. OTOH, as the article points out, Key's personal wealth may have significantly reduced their leverage - and there's an extremely revealing quote about their view of the role of money in politics:
"He could buy himself the [Prime Minister's] job, without worrying about external funding," The Independent was told. "It's [National] never had such a wealthy aspirant [for the Prime Minister's job]. After all, what's $5 million to someone like John Key?"
(My emphasis; their ellipsis)
To these people, public office is for sale. It's not a question of what the public wants - its just a matter of throwing enough money at the problem. It's an anti-democratic attitude, and precisely why we must have spending limits and transparency laws - otherwise, we won't have a democracy, but rather a democratic screen for plutocracy.