Simon Hughes MP, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats, will visit the Centre for Journalism today in his role as the coalition's Advocate for Access to Education. Mr Hughes will meet students in the postgraduate newsroom at 3.30 pm. This is an excellent opportunity to ask a leading opinion former questions about the future of higher education. Please come. Democracy requires that active citizens participate in events such as these.   


 Is this open to all to attend, or is it postgraduate-only?


Open to all, Nick. You are very welcome.



Is Mr Hughes only going to want to answer questions relating to higher education or can we ask some more general questions as well?

As far as I am concerned you can ask him anything you like.

I wish it had been made clear to us from the outset that this citzen participation in democracy was actually going to be a focus group helping the government to sell its education policy...

I'm surprised that is all you got out of the meeting. Yes, he was there to discuss education policy on behalf of the government, but he also made it clear, though not necessarily said, on several occasions that he was not there to just sell - or find a way to sell - governmental policy.
This surely was clear in the way he allowed open questions on University education which were in no way related to the idea of receiving feedback from a focus group. For example why would he have answered my question on financing the finance companies if all he wanted was feedback? It was an excellent opportunity to have a chance at questioning one of the country's leading politicians if you just made it so.


We could have asked more questions. It's true. 

No one pointed out to him two heavily arguable things that he stepped on at a few different occasions during the meeting. I realized it early on in the meeting, but I failed entirely to say anything, that much is my fault.

"I'm not here to sell you this policy,.."

"So what is the message we can use to sell this policy?"

No, he wasn't there to sell us the policy specifically. But he was very much there to sell the policy. If he is going to say (1) he's not with the coalition government, and that (2) he doesn't support this policy, then what is he DOING?

Regardless of the political reason to do what he's doing, (he said that he felt the lib dems needed to man up to their mistakes, and that he was doing the advocate for access because the new policy had been voted in by Parliament and there was no point in doing nothing) it simply didn't match what he said in his 'self defense'. And that's where we should have stopped him.

Tim told me this after the meeting, and I hope he doesn't mind me quoting him, "Never let a politician set your agenda."

He did set the agenda, yes, there's no denying that much, but we definately had an open opportunity to disregard it and ask our own questions anyway. I give props to Oprah especially, her question about electorate trust was brilliant.

Excellent post, Anica.  Of course I don't mind being quoted. You quote me accurately, so I am entirely happy. 

I think it provided a very useful lesson in the handling of politicians. They will always talk about what they want to talk about unless they are challenged and obliged to address different questions. Mr Hughes only set the agenda when students listened obediently. When you asked him direct questions he was obliged to answer them. Well done. The important rule is never to defer. You are entitled to ask about the issues that concern you. Never be rude, but be as forceful as you like. Democracy requires bold, sustained questioning. Politicians will rarely volunteer to be interrogated. We must impose it upon them.  

Visit of Simon Hughes MP