James Forsyth

Tzars and advocates

Tzars and advocates
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The coalition’s attempt to talk to two audiences at once is on full display today. The Times reports on the appointment of the Tory Lord Heseltine as a growth czar and his warning against bashing the bankers. Meanwhile, The Guardian reveals that Simon Hughes, the deputy Lib Dem leader, is to be the coalition’s access advocate.

Hughes’ appointment is intriguing. On one level, the appointment of Hughes—who abstained in the fees’ vote—is a way of trying to draw a line under the matter within the Liberal Democrats. Clegg clearly hopes that having abstained Hughes will be better able to sell the package to sceptical party activists. But on the World at One Today Hughes said that a key part of his role was to try and keep down the number of universities that charge over £6,000 a year. 

Hughes' appointment will exacerbate Tory backbenchers’ irritation at how differently Number 10 treats Lib Dem dissenters from Tory ones. The abstaining Hughes has been given a government role while Tories who abstained have been briefed against and hauled over the coals by the whips.