October 4, 2002

Huffy harrumphing was heard at this week's Labour Party conference in Blackpool when higher education fringe meetings were disrupted by a timetable clash. Universities UK had attracted education secretary Estelle Morris and higher education minister Margaret Hodge to speak at its fringe event, but Ms Morris started her speech by saying she had to leave early to attend a reception hosted by the Association of University Teachers and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers. An AUT source later explained that the clash was due to "a bit of a balls-up".

Ms Hodge later shocked the meeting by using the "s" word. She said that, as socialists, the government and party had to rise to the challenge of widening participation in higher education by the poorest in society.

The Diary suspects that Ms Hodge could have strung together a number of Anglo-Saxon expletives and provoked fewer gasps and nervous titters from the audience.

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