One thing we have been devoid of in Northern Irish politics of late is a good ol' leadership battle. The last time one of the main parties changed at the top was the rather obvious succession of Peter Robinson to Paisley's mantle. However, the present political elite cannot go on forever, so why the hell not, as no other blogs are likely to do it, now seems as good a time as any to consider what might happen when the present supremos move on.
The first question might be, who is likely to fall first? With a general election on the cards in 2010 a poor performance from the SDLP could see Mark Durkan fall from grace, sooner rather than later. On the same count Sir Reg hasn't exactly transformed his party's fortunes, but his steady management of some party reform and his latest Conservative coup makes him that little bit safer.
Elsewhere David Ford's position looks strong (probably as strong as it's ever been) in the Alliance Party, threatened only in the longer term by the obvious political talent of his more able deputy Naomi Long. The DUP's Peter Robinson is preparing himself for at least a decade at the helm, with Dodds (Nigel, not Diane!) already primed for another seemless takeover.
The Sinn Féin position is rather interesting. Adams has reached his sixties, does he still have the stamina and political will to reach 2016? Will he want to with no united Ireland on the cards? So is McGuinness an obvious replacement? He has revelled in the position of dFM, but is he party leader material? One must think he is the best bet, but at just two years Adams's younger perhaps Conor Murphy could be primed instead, or even a woman? (that is if the SDLP don't beat them to it with Margaret Ritchie?)
So here we go. A prediction for 2019... and the chances of this blog going until then are so slim that you won't be able to hold me to it!
Party Leaders in 2019:
DUP - Nigel Dodds
SF - Conor Murphy
UUP - Danny Kennedy
SDLP - Margaret Ritchie
Alliance - Naomi Long