Alex Attwood is a punchy and effective minister, but he has picked the wrong issue to take a stand on, much less go down fighting on. He has done a good job in Environment. He has streamlined planning procedures. He gave the go-ahead for many developments that were mired in red tape, including a recent crop of wind turbines and the Bushmills Dunes Golf Resort, which is being contested by the National Trust. Yet if he fights and wins against John Lewis he will go down in history as the minister who lost Northern Ireland £150m in investment and up to 1,500 retail jobs, plus more in construction.
It is the sort of victory that defines your reputation, especially if you represent the West Belfast constituency where many of the new jobs would be recruited.
John Lewis is a blue chip employer.
Jobseekers last year rated it as the top company to work for. Employees get shares and bonuses, effectively owning a large chunk of the company.
It is a model of excellence which Government asks other employers to emulate.
It also has the now rare capacity to draw in shoppers from across the border.
It will be an all-Ireland hub.
This can easily be made a special case and losing it would be another black mark over Northern Ireland's reputation as a place to do business.
Mr Attwood could cause some limited embarrassment to Sinn Féin. It champions ministerial independence; only last week he backed Sinn Féin minister Michelle O'Neill at the Executive table when others questioned her decision to move the Department of Agriculture headquarters to Ballykelly.
Sinn Féin owes him one.
It will fear setting a precedent on the John Lewis issue, and Mr Attwood has, in the past, shown himself adept at pushing the right buttons to make the larger party tack and swerve. He should resist the temptation. It is the wrong issue to use as a test case.
If Sinn Féin overrules him on this, it will gain kudos in the end.
It already has the other five Assembly seats in West Belfast and securing John Lewis is a crowd-pleaser that could help it win his, too, at the next election.
Mr Attwood has said that sometimes a minister needs to stand back and consider the big picture. This is a moment to keep his eye on the prize, not cling to dogma.
LIAM CLARKE If it comes right down to a choice, would we be better off losing this development in order to defend the integrity of planning policy?
ALEX ATTWOOD That is clearly not the way I would characterise it. John Lewis will have to make their commercial judgment. Ministers in the Government have to make judgments based on the retail environment and what it should be over the next 10, 20 or 30 years.