Photo credit: Julian Hanford
Photo credit: Julian Hanford
A view from Dave Trott

A view from Dave Trott: Free speech

Katie Hopkins has made a career out of being controversial.

She started by shocking people on reality TV shows.

Then The Sun began paying her to write a weekly column.

Now she writes for MailOnline.

Hopkins applied several times to join UKIP.

But her views are too extreme for them and they turned her down.

So just how controversial are her views?

Consider this, on the immigrant crisis:

"Make no mistake, these migrants are like cockroaches. They might look a bit ‘Bob Geldof’s Ethiopia circa 1984’ but they are built to survive a nuclear bomb. Once gunships have driven them back to their shores, their boats need to be confiscated and burnt on a huge bonfire".

In case there was any doubt, she clarified her position:

"No, I don’t care. Show me pictures of coffins, show me bodies floating in water, play violins and show me skinny people looking sad. I still don’t care."

And she was just as outspoken on the subject of the Scottish nurse being treated for ebola:

"Glaswegian ebola patient moved to London’s Royal Free Hospital. Not so independent when it matters most are we jocksville?"

Again, just to clarify, she elucidated:

"Little sweaty jocks sending us ebola bombs in the form of sweaty Glaswegians just isn’t cricket. Scottish NHS sucks".

And it wasn’t just people who weren’t English she felt contempt for.

It was also the working class:

"A name, for me, is a short way of working out what class that child comes from. Do I want my child to play with them? 'Hi, this is my daughter Charmaine.' I hear: 'Hi, I am thick and ignorant'."

So, all in all, not the sort of person you’d expect to be addressing the student body at a university.

And yet that is exactly what Brunel University expected.

They booked Hopkins to address the students on the debate, "Does the welfare state have a place in 2015?"

So how should the student union react?

Do they protest and try to stop the event even being allowed?

In which case they’re denying her right of free speech.

Or do they go along and heckle her at the event?

In which case they’re doing the same thing.

So the student union didn’t do either of those things.

On the evening of the debate the auditorium was full.

Hopkins came on stage and everyone politely applauded.

And as she began speaking the entire audience stood up and turned their backs to her.

Then the entire audience quietly filed out of the hall.

Leaving Hopkins talking to several hundred empty chairs.

The student union president, Ali Milani, summarised it: "The inclusion of Ms Hopkins has been met with a widespread outcry from the entire student body.

"However, it is important to note that the conversation at no point has been about banning Ms Hopkins from speaking on campus, or denying her right to speak.

"It is instead about saying it is distasteful and incongruous for our university to provide a platform to someone who adds nothing to the intellectual or academic discourse, and who publicly utters such overtly bigoted views and provides no valuable intellectual insight."

And that, for me, was the perfect way to handle that situation.

Everyone who wanted to listen to her was free to stay and listen.

Hopkins could still speak about whatever she wanted.

But the students can make their feelings known in a way that makes it absolutely clear they don’t want her at their university.

She can address an empty room.

That for me was a creative solution.

Dave Trott’s book, One Plus One Equals Three, is out now