Both the DUP and SF have comfirmed that Alliance taking the Policing and Justice Ministry is one of the options being examined. This option had previously been ruled out by Sinn Fein. However, the piece identifies two barriers, the SDLP are next in line for a Ministry under D’hondt and Alliance are demanding changes to the operation of the Executive. Whatever the ins and outs of the negotiations and whether this is the easiest way to achieve a deal, does it make longer-term electoral sense for the parties?
Alliance had a good election in 07 but have had difficulty maintaining any sort of profile. Giving them a ministry could be a substantial boost (provided the person appointed does not make a hash of it). The SDLP have their eye on two Alliance seats in East Antrim and Strangford. Unionism should be targeting 2 if not 3 of the remaining 5 seats. The UUP should be worried if Alliance’s strongest electoral performer Naomi Long gets the position. In the last Assembly election, she took Alliance to within 3% and 933 votes of putting the UUP into 3rd place in East Belfast, what impact would a successful term as P&J Minster have? Pretty much only SF have no direct electoral interest now they have their seats in South Antrim and Lagan Valley. Although they would probably prefer that Alliance remain an East Ulster electoral force as it does more harm to Unionism and the SDLP.