LIB DEMS IN GLASGOW: French boycott call uncorks a dilemma

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Serious embarrassment for Paddy Ashdown, the Liberal Democrat leader,and other party chiefs could be in prospect today when their conference calls for the boycotting of all French products and services in protest at nuclear tests, writes Patricia Wynn Davies.

Mr Ashdown and his wife Jane make frequent trips to their house in Burgundy. If the conference call is carried, its strict wording would require them to carry their own food, petrol and even water on visits to their holiday home, light candles when they get there instead of using electricity and refuse to have their bins emptied.

The move will come as an amendment to this afternoon's motion deploring France's decision to carry out nuclear tests in the south Pacific. It calls on the Government to condemn the French decision, press the French government to abandon tests and guarantee that there will be no new British nuclear weapons tests while seeking negotiation of a full test ban treaty.

The intensely pro-European Liberal Democrats claim, with some justification, to have made more vocal protests than Labour against the French action.

But some delegates wondered last night whether this was a protest too far in the wake of the "killjoy" thumbs-down to lottery scratch cards. Some, even those without French homes but already weary of supping on Australian chardonnay, suggested that French wine and cheese should be exempted.