Speak - er, erm?
The Speaker is dead, long live er, erm, someone who'll do it better.
Ever since Michael Martin was dragged back out of the Speaker's chair, Westminster has waited and watched in the hope that someone would emerge as a strong consensus candidate to fill his seat. No-one has.
In part, this is because the Speaker is being asked to fill a bewildering array of roles - parliamentary figurehead, presiding officer, protector of parliament's rights, reformer, backbench shop steward, public spokesman, chief executive and saint.
In part, it is because many Labour and Tory MPs appear to be governed by entirely negative factors.
Many Labour MPs are telling me that they're...
• NOT going to vote for one of their own party as then they get the blame for the mess
• NOT going to back another Old Etonian - Sir George Young - after all, they say, aren't the Mayor of London and possible next PM enough?
• NOT going to back a Lib Dem - Alan Beith - as his party brought down Michael Martin
That's how many end up backing John Bercow.
Many - perhaps most - Tories say they're...
• NOT backing Bercow because he's NOT really a Tory at all and, as I reported before, they find him objectionable
That's how many end up backing Margaret Beckett.
With the Commons due to spend the whole of today on choosing their next Speaker, I hope MPs begin to focus on the positive.
The next Speaker's powers are, in truth, limited. He or she will not transform the expenses system since it is likely to go to an outside body. He or she will not be able to lead reform or increase the power of backbenchers on their own.
The public power they will have is rather like that of Prince Charles - to use the status of their position to speak out occasionally to stop something they don't like or demand attention for an issue that's being ignored.
HRH used that power to oppose building projects and to warn us about the threat to the environment.
Speaker Martin failed to use it to warn MPs about their expenses system or to block police access to Parliament.
The next Speaker is likely to be judged by the public by whether they speak up for those who send MPs to Parliament and how they stand up to the powerful on their behalf.