I find it very interesting that Simon Hughes, a Liberal Democrat MP and Deputy Leader of his party has been appointed as an advocate for access to higher education even though he abstained on the vote to raise the cap on fees in England.
During the six-month term, Mr Hughes will go into schools to canvass the concerns of less financially well-off teenagers and devise with them publicity campaigns to persuade as many as possible to consider higher education.
I don’t see how Hughes can publicise and re-frame a policy that he clearly doesn’t believe in. I’m sure he believes in promoting university access but not with top-up fees, in the same way that he wants fairness in taxation or constitutional reform and a greener politics.
The mistake in placing Hughes in this role is that it stops his natural role. His natural role is to be an opposition MP, and to be the devil’s advocate within the Coalition. Whilst involved in student politics I learnt it was important to have people in your team whose main role is to stretch your thinking and to disagree with you so your thinking doesn’t become too narrow. I believe Hughes performs that role brilliantly having no crucial responsibility that prevents that, but this new role will compromise that.
He is now, in effect, supporting a policy that many of his party’s MPs, let alone his party supporters oppose, I believe that is not a good place to be for him, who is generally thought of as a fantastic MP.