Morning Call: pick of the papers

The ten must-read pieces from this morning’s papers.

1. Don't bet on Ed Miliband being the high-flier who crashes to earth (Daily Telegraph)

The Labour leader's deceptively modest start could propel him all the way to Downing Street, writes Mary Riddell.

2. Even the Tories now foresee chaos in Lansley's NHS (Guardian)

David Cameron faces an NHS crisis unless he makes a sharp U-turn and sacks Andrew Lansley, says Polly Toynbee.

3. Tandem government isn't taking us for a ride (Times) (£)

The coalition should focus on the economy and jobs, not Europe and control orders, urges Nick Boles MP.

4. There is an alternative to the VAT rise (Guardian)

Taxes on financial transactions, carbon and land could fill the hole in the public finances, says Philippe Legrain.

5. Why not have a return to renting? (Independent)

If Grant Shapps's aim is to end the obsession with owning property, he should worry less about how people get on the ladder, argues Dominic Lawson.

6. Ed Miliband's VAT attack is hard to stomach (Daily Telegraph)

Any doubts that the Labour leader is a shameless political opportunist have been laid to rest, argues a Telegraph leader.

7. To win back power we must stick to the centre ground (Independent)

Labour needs to have the humility to understand why people vote Conservative, says Tessa Jowell.

8. Moving into Pole position (Financial Times)

Poland is finally taking its place as one of the leading powers in the European Union, says a Financial Times leader.

9. The Tory VAT rise is a start to the new year we could all do without (Daily Mirror)

The VAT increase will harm our prospects of economic growth, writes the shadow chancellor, Alan Johnson.

10. I am a Beatles obsessive. But let's cut the Fabs-worship (Guardian)

The transformation of the Beatles into a national religion detracts from the magic of their music, says John Harris.

Show Hide image

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.