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Regional editor 'was asked to stand as MP'

A veteran regional daily editor was asked to stand for Parliament as the Liberal Democrat candidate in a forthcoming by-election, a leading internet blogger has claimed today.

Peter Franzen recently announced he was stepping down as editor of the Eastern Daily Press after 16 years in charge.

Now the leading Conservative blogger Iain Dale, who writes a column for the EDP, has claimed that Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg approached him to stand in the Norwich North by-election caused by the resignation of Labour MP Ian Gibson.

Mr Franzen has so far neither confirmed nor denied the claim, but admits to having had a discussion with Mr Clegg last week about the vacancy.

He told Mr Dale: “It is true that Nick Clegg came to the EDP last week to do a “web chat” and that he and I discussed Norwich North and my imminent retirement as editor of the Eastern Daily Press, but I think it would be unfair to the now-adopted prospective parliamentary candidate for the Lib Dems, April Pond, to say any more than that.”

HTFP has approached Mr Franzen for further comment but he has yet to respond.

Writing on his blog today, Mr Dale said the EDP editor’s comments amounted to an admission.

“Having spoken to other sources, both in Norwich and London, I am 100pc confident that Clegg did indeed ask Franzen to stand,” he writes.

Mr Dale claims that Mr Clegg also approached the former BBC journalist and anti-sleaze campaigner Martin Bell to stand in the constituency, and that Ms Pond was the Lib Dem leader’s third choice for the seat.

The by-election, which Labour is expected to lose, is set to be delayed until after the summer to avoid more damaging headlines for Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Earlier this month Mr Gibson announced he was standing down with immediate effect, claiming the Labour leadership had singled him out for criticism over his expense claims.

It followed revelations that he sold his second home to his daughter and her partner at a reduced price.

  • Read Iain Dale’s full blog post here