Here's how to hang parliament

Vote for a Change is campaigning for a hung parliament - it is our only hope.

Well those debates have made the race to Number 10 a little bit more interesting. But despite the Clegg bounce, the single most popular option at the coming election won't appear on any ballot paper. And that's because more voters want a hung parliament than any possible outcome come May 6th.

So with ballot papers not really helping us out, we've launched a tool to help voters make a hung parliament a reality.

The Vote for a Change campaign started trying to deliver a referendum on voting reform on the date of the 2010 General Election, but politicians were too slow to hear our call. We won the argument, but the big parties failed to get their act together to get the referendum passed in the last session of parliament.

Now we are faced with a General Election, and the prospect of yet another broken parliament. It's increasingly clear that none of the parties can deliver real change themselves. Either they can't or they won't. So what we need is a reforming parliament. And that means a parliament where no one party can ride roughshod over the others. Where the whips aren't all powerful. Where real change has a chance.

We still need supporters to Vote for a Change, but in this election, that means delivering that hung parliament.

Now some supporters have said to us "why don't you just back the Lib Dems?" Well the enthusiasm for Clegg's performance on ITV has forgotten the underlying logic of our flawed elections that got us here in the first place. It is more than possible for Nick to come first and third on May 6th, just as it's possible for Gordon to come last and first.

Now David Cameron's old tutor Vernon Bogdanor has already described the coming elections as having echoes of the "peers versus the people" struggle at the polls 100 years ago. We doubt his old student is listening, but our campaign is all about the People Power he preached about last week. Behind the abstractions, the pie charts, the endless parade of wonks are individual voters who don't have the power to deliver the politics of their choosing. We're asking them to work together, and to think and vote tactically.

Of course we wish voters weren't forced to vote with their heads rather than their hearts. But the logic of First-Past-the-Post often means we have to back a candidate with a realistic chance of winning to prevent a worse option. In this election voters will have to forget about individual candidates or parties and think of the big picture. Our shared goal of a hung parliament will require thousands of voters across the country to make our pledge and vote accordingly on May 6th

Some may vote for a party they've never have even contemplated supporting before. Some may wish to take a nose peg into the polling booths. We know this means sacrifice. But if we can deliver a hung parliament we're sure this will be the last time an organisation likes ours has to ask so much from its supporters.

Willie Sullivan is director of Vote for a Change


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Why a group of Brunel students walked out on Katie Hopkins instead of no-platforming her

"We silently walked out because Ms Hopkins has the right to speak, but we also have the right to express our discontent."

Earlier this week, columnist and all-round provocateur Katie Hopkins turned up to Brunel University to join a panel in debating whether the welfare state has a place in 2015. No prizes for guessing her stance on this particular issue

But as Hopkins began her speech, something odd happened. Around 50 students stood up and left, leaving the hall half-empty.

Here's the video:

As soon as Hopkins begins speaking, some students stand up with their backs to the panelists. Then, they all leave - as the nonplussed chair asks them to "please return to their seats". 

The walk-out was, in fact, pre-planned by the student union as an act of protest against Hopkins' appearance at an event held as part of the University's 50th anniversary celebrations. 

Ali Milani, the Brunel Student Union president, says he and other students knew the walk-out would "start a conversation" around no-platforming on campuses, but as he points out, "What is often overlooked (either purposely or as a result of the fanfare) is that the conversation at no point has been about banning Ms Hopkins from speaking on campus, or denying her right to speak."

Instead, students who found her appearance at the welfare debate "incongruous" and "distasteful" simply left the room: "We silently walked out because Ms Hopkins has the right to speak, but we also have the right to express our discontent."

Milani praised the student body for treading the line between freedom of speech and expressing their distaste at Brunel's decision: 

"They have respectfully voiced their antagonism at the decision of their institution, but also . . . proven their commitment to free of speech and freedom of expression."

The protest was an apt way to dodge the issues of free speech surrounding no-platforming, while rejecting Hopkins' views. A walk-out symbolises the fact that we aren't obliged to listen to people like Hopkins. She is free to speak, of course, albeit to empty chairs. 

Barbara Speed is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman and a staff writer at CityMetric.