Normal person + internet anonymity = ?

Talking on <em>Woman's Hour</em> about sexist trolling online.

This morning, on Radio 4's Woman's Hour, I think I managed to shock Jane Garvey by relating some of the lowlights from the stories of sexist abuse I've been told in the last few weeks.

We talked about whether women get more abuse, how comment threads could be moderated and what percentage of commenters are abusive. "People are just really nasty on the internet," said my fellow guest Tamara Littleton, of e-Moderation.

We didn't have time to get into it on the programme, but one of the most interesting things to come out of the discussion is whether anonymity is the problem (you can see a light-hearted treatment of that here). I can see the arguments against insisting on real names -- because those in sensitive jobs may feel inhibited from commenting otherwise -- but I think that discussion forums should encourage users to invest in an identity, to take pride in their contributions.

The Guardian, for example, does this with commenters' profiles, so you can see everything a person has written and many sites require registration with an email address. Another interesting suggestion I've heard in the last couple of days is charging a nominal one-off fee - say 20p - for your first comment.

The NS's own David Allen Green, meanwhile, uses pre-moderation on his personal blog, and said this gives the comment section a "letters to the editor" feel.

You can listen to the segment from Woman's Hour here. It's about 20 minutes into the programme.

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.

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Why relations between Theresa May and Philip Hammond became tense so quickly

The political imperative of controlling immigration is clashing with the economic imperative of maintaining growth. 

There is no relationship in government more important than that between the prime minister and the chancellor. When Theresa May entered No.10, she chose Philip Hammond, a dependable technocrat and long-standing ally who she had known since Oxford University. 

But relations between the pair have proved far tenser than anticipated. On Wednesday, Hammond suggested that students could be excluded from the net migration target. "We are having conversations within government about the most appropriate way to record and address net migration," he told the Treasury select committee. The Chancellor, in common with many others, has long regarded the inclusion of students as an obstacle to growth. 

The following day Hammond was publicly rebuked by No.10. "Our position on who is included in the figures has not changed, and we are categorically not reviewing whether or not students are included," a spokesman said (as I reported in advance, May believes that the public would see this move as "a fix"). 

This is not the only clash in May's first 100 days. Hammond was aggrieved by the Prime Minister's criticisms of loose monetary policy (which forced No.10 to state that it "respects the independence of the Bank of England") and is resisting tougher controls on foreign takeovers. The Chancellor has also struck a more sceptical tone on the UK's economic prospects. "It is clear to me that the British people did not vote on June 23 to become poorer," he declared in his conference speech, a signal that national prosperity must come before control of immigration. 

May and Hammond's relationship was never going to match the remarkable bond between David Cameron and George Osborne. But should relations worsen it risks becoming closer to that beween Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling. Like Hammond, Darling entered the Treasury as a calm technocrat and an ally of the PM. But the extraordinary circumstances of the financial crisis transformed him into a far more assertive figure.

In times of turmoil, there is an inevitable clash between political and economic priorities. As prime minister, Brown resisted talk of cuts for fear of the electoral consequences. But as chancellor, Darling was more concerned with the bottom line (backing a rise in VAT). By analogy, May is focused on the political imperative of controlling immigration, while Hammond is focused on the economic imperative of maintaining growth. If their relationship is to endure far tougher times they will soon need to find a middle way. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.