Patrick Gower: Greens hold key to next Government

OPINION: Contrary to popular belief, the Greens hold plenty of leverage over Winston Peters.

In fact, the Greens' grassroot membership holds leverage, and they can make or break the current coalition standoff.

Remember, New Zealand First and Labour cannot do anything without the Greens. They need the votes in the House, they need them in on the deal.

But here's the stumbling block - the Green Party constitution requires 75 percent of membership to sign off on a deal. 

That means any deal in the coming days will need to go out to the Greens membership and get sign-off or Labour/NZ First can't count on the votes. 

That means, if 25 percent of membership think it's an inferior deal, they can veto it. 

And if they veto it, there is no Labour-NZ First-Greens deal and Winston Peters has no leverage over National.

My understanding of the process for the 75/25 percent vote is that Green leader James Shaw would take any deal and present it to delegates in a video conference call. The delegates would then have a straight yes/no vote on it.

Those delegates come from more than 50 branches, including diverse places like Auckland metro, Golden Bay and Te Awamutu.

The stakes will be very high - if it's a deal that looks like the Greens have been shut out, it could be voted down.

Yes, many Greens are keen to change the Government and know that compromises must be made to do it.

However, the Greens won't do it at any cost and they don't really like Winston Peters either.

At the Greens campaign launch this year, former co-leader Metiria Turei told members they would not accept an "inferior deal". She also said Winston Peters was racist.

At the same time, former MP Barry Coates talked about forcing another election, if Labour/NZ First tried to force them out.

That shows us the attitude among the Greens membership.

If an inferior deal is offered, where "racist" Winston Peters is in a powerful position thanks to Green votes and there is very little in it for the Greens, then why should the Takaka Greens delegate sign it off?

Does the Greens membership want to give Winston Peters control of immigration? Or set up boot camps? Or change the smacking law?

The simple fact is Labour and NZ First need to give James Shaw something good to take back to the membership or the Labour-NZ First-Greens house of cards will fall down.

Conversely, the Greens 'rarking up' and demanding stuff may force Winston Peters into the hands of National.

Bill English knows this and he knows the Greens are the weak link in all of this. He can give Peters a straight-up deal. 

As he pointed out, James Shaw has leverage - but he isn't using it.

Maybe the Greens membership will use it for him.

Patrick Gower is the political editor for Newshub.