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Would Franzen have done better?

Former That’s Life presenter Esther Rantzen today struck a blow for the journalistic profession by announcing she will stand for Parliament at the next election in the Luton seat being vacated by expenses row Labour MP Margaret Moran.

But if it’s Rantzen for Luton South, it could have been Franzen for Norwich North, if Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg had had his way. Peter Franzen was, until a few weeks ago, the hugely respected and long-serving editor of the Eastern Daily Press

But after announcing his retirement at the end of May, he was apparently then approached by Clegg to be the Liberal Democrats’ candidate in the Norwich North by-election caused by the resignation of another MP hit by expenses revelations, Ian Gibson.

The story, which originally surfaced on Iain Dale’s Diary and was subsequently carried on HoldtheFrontPage, has never been denied, and Peter’s own carefully-worded non-denial – "it would be unfair to the now-adopted prospective parliamentary candidate for the Lib Dems, April Pond, to say any more" – seemed to amount to a confirmation.

In the event, of course, Ms Pond’s selection proved disastrous for the Lib Dems. She came a poor third , prompting at least one political blogger to question Clegg’s own future.

Would Peter have done better? Quite possibly. For all the low esteem in which they are allegedly held, journalists have a good record as "anti sleaze" candidates, as Martin Bell proved in 1997, and as the redoubtable Ms Rantzen may well prove in 2010.