With a UK general election almost certain to take place in little over a month, it is inevitable that political manoeuvring will be intensifying in a number of key constituencies across Northern Ireland.
Until recently most debate had centred on a proposed deal involving the two main unionist parties in South Belfast and Fermanagh/South Tyrone.
But within the last week the spotlight has shifted to the prospect of an independent candidate securing cross-party backing in West Tyrone.
While it is always fascinating to speculate on the various scenarios, the reality is that, unless exceptional circumstances are involved, the electorate is usually best served by the main parties fielding candidates in all 18 constituencies.
Electoral pacts gloss over the sharp policy differences between rival groups and reduce the contest to little more than a sectarian headcount.
Sooner or later, inter-party talks on the what might be the best way of restoring a devolved assembly at Stormont will have to be resumed.
The parties need to enter the negotiations on the basis of the mandate they receive from voters throughout Northern Ireland and there is an obvious danger that electoral pacts will only add confusion to what is an already finely balanced process.
Of course, independent candidates are fully capable of making a significant contribution to the wider debate.
It is quite possible that an individual seeking to win justice for the relatives of the Omagh bomb victims, or to protect hospital services, could be regarded as a special case.
In order to succeed at the polls such a candidate would have to demonstrate that they are better placed than any of the existing parties to further the aims of a particular campaign.
This will not be an easy task but it ultimately depends on the prevailing mood in each constituency.
Some intriguing discussions lie ahead over the next five weeks.