Since Naomi Long’s is the only hat in the Alliance party leadership ring…

And as she does so it becomes clear there are no other candidates. No long damaging and divisive leadership race, and an opportunity to reset the tone and the politics of the party which traded off the competent tenure of David Ford as Justice Minister. But whither now for NI’s middle ground party?

In East Belfast she has displaced and relegated the UUPs from second rank to almost nowhere. But where does the middle ground prepare for seat crunch and times when larger parties are likely to hold the Opposition ground? How do they avoid getting too easily played?

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty