Iain Dale has something of an exclusive on the selection of the Lib Dem candidate in Norwich North, and I guess it is my job to make some kind of defence.
In truth, the Lib Dems know that the best chance they have is to select a well know recognisable name who comes with instant recognition or legitimacy that can bridge the gap that automatically comes from starting in third place. My guess is that Martin Bell or a local paper editor would have given the Lib Dem campaign a real boost. It has worked for the Liberals in the past (remember Clement Freud in the Isle of Ely in 1973 ? ), and there was no reason to suggest this couldn't happen again.
To be fair, as I understand it, local members would still have had to select a candidate from a shortlist, even if a celebrity name came forward, and April Pond was one of two candidates who made it to the selection meeting.
Can I shed any more light on this ? Not really. As I see it Nick Clegg was doing the right thing to maximise the Lib Dem chances of success. Would the Tories have done the same ? Well I seem to recall they selected the owner of a local radio station in Ealing a few months back for a by election there, and the similarities and parallels seem clear.