Across Northern Ireland tonight there are men and women literally ‘phone sitting’ waiting for that coveted call from their party leader which says “I have good news for you. I want you to do DSD” or whatever.
There is a palpable feeling of exasperation in some camps with aspiring ministers at the end of their tethers in this waiting game. ‘Game’ is the apt word because in so many cases ambitious young men and women are currently torturing themselves and wrestling with the many permutations and philosophy informing a party leader in making a ministerial choice. The sharpest knife in the drawer doesn’t necessarily mean a ministerial post is a given. The party leader has to take so many issues into account. Geography can be a factor. Big vote pullers are the life and blood of any party. Does one automatically reward that person? At the heart of most decisions apart from party and personal loyalties are political and strategic reasons. Capacity to perform competently and judiciously is critical. A bad ministerial move as perceived in case of Michael Mc Gimpsey with his Altnagelvin Hospital decision can have far reaching implications for a political party. In the case of the DUP Nelson Mc Causland has seen the Ulster Unionists off the pitch in North Belfast. Sammy Wilson has proven himself a big vote deliverer and a bruiser on the floor of the House.
Can Peter Robinson spring a surprise in Finance without consequences? How does he leave Arlene Foster on the back benches although it is questionable if she will ever be the MP for Fermanagh South Tyrone? Could Gerry Adams fail to reappoint Michelle Gildernew, a popular minister who has killed off the SDLP in Fermanagh South Tyrone? John O Dowd and Martina Anderson are emerging as electoral terminators in Foyle and Upper Bann. Can the leadership ignore them and leave them unrewarded? There are four very able committee chairpersons hanging on the ledge tonight – Barry Mc Ilduff, Jim Wells, Simon Hamilton and Patsy Mc Glone. Will the phone ring for them? Patronage is a powerful weapon!