05 August 2011 2:10 PM

Drugs and hacking at Lib-Dem conference

As was widely reported this morning, this year's Lib-Dem conference is likely to back moves towards legalising all drugs for personal use.

It's certainly a headline-grabbing topic and will create tension with Tory partners in Government if it becomes official party policy.

ESP can reveal that delegates in Birmingham will also debate phone hacking in a move that could lead to tighter regulation of the press.

A high-profile spot has been reserved for an emergency discussion of the scandal, though the exact wording of the motion for debate will not be settled until activists meet.

Senior backbencher Adrian Sanders, a member of the culture media and sport committee, said it could centre around press curbs.

“We are not talking about regulating the press in a way that inhibits press freedom but sets certain standards that we expect everyone to follow with punishments available if they do not,” he told ESP.

There will no doubt be a lot of crowing from Lib-Dems that they never got into bed with the Murdoch empire. Lib-Dem sources said senior figures such as party president Simon Hughes and media spokesman Don Foster are likely to want to speak in the debate, which will take place on the same day as a question-and-answer session with Mr Clegg.

A couple of other conference tit-bits: The theme is "in Government, on your side". Expect more stress on hard-working "alarm clock Britain" that Nick Clegg (himself an early-rising working dad) has pushed before.

It comes as the party is looking at how to portray itself in coming elections following the poll savaging it got in May. Flesh is being put on the bones that the party is "more credible on the economy than Labour but fairer than the Tories," I'm told.

There will be differences up and down the land, however. In Scotland there will be more of an emphasis on the Lib-Dems as a moderating influence curbing the excesses of their Tory partners.

Craig Woodhouse
Follow me on Twitter @craigawoodhouse


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