Kennedy hasn’t yet “learned to love” the coalition

But he has learned to tolerate it.

At first glance, Charles Kennedy's article in this month's Prospect (£), which appears under the headline "I've learned to love the coalition", is rather startling. Has the one Lib Dem MP not to vote in favour of the Coalition Agreement really embraced Cameron and co?

The answer is no. The former Lib Dem leader concedes that "it is in everyone's interests that it succeeds" and says that he expects the coalition to last until 2015, but goes no further. It would be more accurate to say that Kennedy has learned to tolerate the coalition.

More notable is what he has to say about Labour. He writes: "I'm in no doubt that a sizeable swath within Labour were happier in the luxury of opposition, knowing how hard economically things would be. Much of their outrage at coalition decisions they would have probably taken themselves is synthetic at best." It's not the tone of a man who has any intention of crossing the floor.

The article was written before Ed Miliband's latest overture to the Lib Dems but Kennedy makes it clear that, in his view, there is little prospect of a formal split. He writes: "Despite recent setbacks, the Lib Dems are a much more resilient bunch than we are usually given credit for. We wouldn't have survived otherwise." Sounding an optimistic note, he adds: "The real fortunes of the party will hinge on the economic prognosis in the third and fourth years of this parliament."

The former Lib Dem leader is clearly playing the long game.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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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.