by RAY FLEMING
ONLY two weeks to go before the next election. No, not that one, silly, the one for the new Speaker of the House of Commons. Tuesday June 23 to be precise. So when will we know who is standing and what they are standing for?

Not that we have a vote, but it would still be nice to know the candidates' names and why they think they are qualified to take over a job which its incumbent, Michael Martin, is leaving in rather poor shape. It seems, however, that although the new Speaker should be someone capable of playing a leading role in the reforms of the Commons made necessary by the expenses scandal, he or she will be put in place by little changed procedures. Although the vote will be secret for the first time -- a long overdue reform accepted some time ago -- everything else will be as before. There will be no formal announcement of the names of those interested in taking the job until the very day of the vote. Why? And given that arrangement, how will all 650 MPs who have a voice in this matter get to know what the candidates stand for? Some names are known unofficially but the only one to be brash enough to declare his interest publicly is John Bercow -- who by doing so may have already disqualified himself in the minds of some of his more traditionalist colleagues.

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