Conference diary

Liberal Democrat MEPs are hopping mad about attempts to shift the party in a "Eurosceptic direction". A dispute between the Brussels and Westminster contingents broke out when it emerged that today's policy motion on Europe includes a cap on the EU budget. Chris Davies, the leader of the Liberal Democrat Euro MPs, warned his Westminster colleagues yesterday that the proposal, which is to cut the budget from 1.14 per cent of European Union member nations' incomes, would lead to swingeing cuts in its budget - including cash to be used for the environment and conflict resolution. Watch out today when Mr Davies stands up and warns the party not to "go down the road of Europhobia".

* AWKWARD MOMENT OF THE DAY

Mark Oaten, the party's home affairs spokesman, looked uncomfortable when his younger parliamentary colleague Jo Swinson, 25, suggested that talking about legalising cannabis might not be such a bad idea. Mr Oaten, who has been trying to rid the party of its sandal-wearing image, fiddled nervously with a packet of Polos on his desk.

* GAGGING ORDER OF THE DAY

Sandra Gidley, the Liberal Democrat women's spokesman, is "livid" over the rather "illiberal" refusal of the party to debate all-women shortlists for safe Liberal Democrat seats. With only a handful of women MPs, you would have thought the party would be keen to at least discuss how to get more. But the conference refused to accept her amendment motion on "gender balance" yesterday. Bad move. She now plans to let rip on Radio 4's Today programme.

* KUNG FOO KING

Rob Blackie, the party's head of research, is not a man to argue with - on account of his expertise in martial arts. He has just returned from the Flaming Mountains in the Chinese province of Xin Jiang where the 1970s martial arts television series Monkey was based. The policy wonk is shortly to leave the party, and colleagues wonder if he is planning a career change.

TODAY'S AGENDA

10.30am: Debate on Europe

12.30pm: Speech by Sir Menzies Campbell, foreign affairs spokesman

2.45pm: Speech by Simon Hughes, party president

3.20pm: Question and Answer session with Charles Kennedy, chaired by Simon Kelner, editor in chief of The Independent.

4.10pm: Debate on NHS dentistry

6.15pm: Independent fringe meeting, Can Liberal Democrats Be Part Of A New Progressive Consensus?

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