I've been thinking recently about what changes could be made to the way Stormont, and the executive in particular operates that could be considered during any programme for government after the election.
Undoubtedly one of the big issues and consequently the most controversial is Health. Michael McGimpsey found himself almost exiled within the executive before the election as a fierce battle over funding left no one in a good light. The problem was that the Health Service needed more money or it needed to reform. McGimpsey, aware of how unpopular the reforms would be, asked for more money. The finance minister, aware there was no money, said reform had to happen first.
Where the problem really arose was that in all likelihood, everyone in the executive knew what had to happen but lacked the political will to effect it. Anyone willing to put their neck on the line and make the call for the required 'bitter pill' would be at the mercy of his executive colleagues and so, understandably, no one does and instead the wrong battle is fought and no one wins.
Would a secret ballot within the executive change that? There are obvious flaws, not least that it would require a strict ministerial code of silence, but are there benefits that outweigh the disadvantages?
Safe in the knowledge that there was no real way to ascertain which way they had voted, would ministers vote as their conscience and belief dictated instead of keeping one eye on public opinion and playing to the crowd?
Of course, the rest of the assembly don't have to follow the executives lead but on a vote where the Executive have already voted unanimously, would it also provide cover by proxy?
I think it's right we know which way our elected reps vote but while we still maintain a system of power sharing, why not give those that have to share out a way of agreeing with each other without committing political suicide?