Ah, yes, "perception". How very Mad Men of the Coalition. Lucky Tories never having to consider the actualité now they can hide behind the human shield of delusion provided by their LibDem juniors.
Following in the footsteps of Vince Cable (Cable 0 — Satellite 3), Simon Hughes suppresses his political instinct to challenge, or at least abstain, when he finds himself charged with pushing through the education policies he so obviously despises. Having spoken against the rise in university tuition fees and the cuts in education, Hughes's new role is to sell the new measures to the people who will be picking up the bill despite funds intended to encourage disadvantaged pupils being cut from £360m a year to £150m, by massaging their "perception".
How does someone square this?
Observe the self-loathing as his eyes flip between two modes: the giveaway lying eyes of the unblinking thousand-yard stare, and the barely-able-to-open-his-lids gaze blocking out the world as we know it crumbling around him on his watch. Wince as you witness him performing verbal gymnastics with the grace and conviction of someone kneecapped by his senior partners.
Has Simon been hard-wired for fagging, 'cause he does it so well? Do the Bullingdon bullies make him toast their crumpets and then flush his head down the toilet for sport?
Laurie Penny ponders these matters here.
"The problem with the system is the perception rather than the reality," said Hughes, whose new role as "advocate for access to higher education" will see him trying to persuade poorer teenagers that lifelong debt is no reason not to go to university and join the bargain-bucket scramble for the educational opportunities that their mothers, fathers and political representatives enjoyed for free. Hughes will be taking his higher education roadshow to deprived schools and under-funded sixthform colleges over the next six months, a glorified door-to-door salesperson for unpopular Tory policies, an Avon Lady for Thatcherite university reform. The dogged, defeated hypocrisy of this former rebel Lib Dem's decision to accept the appointment is far from the most compelling thing about this story.
Greater love hath no man than this: that he lay down his principles for his career. Does Hughes believe he is setting a good example for his young constituency? Is he happy to be Morlock-in-chief, ushering in a Brave New World bereft of humanities in favour of a one-note profit-obsessed business juggernaut?
Are we content to be Eloi, herded for slaughter and consumption via a sausage-meat grinder which used to be a pretty good education system?
As Joe Strummer seddit in White Riot:
"All the power in the hands of people rich enough to buy it,
While we walk the streets too chicken to even try it."
Happy 2011. Let's see some resistance.