"You should have your tongue ripped out": the reality of sexist abuse online

Female bloggers speak out about misogynist comments, rape threats and death threats.

You always remember the first time someone calls you ugly on the internet. I imagine -- although it hasn't happened to me -- you always remember the first time someone threatens to rape you, or kill you, or urinate on you.

The sheer volume of sexist abuse thrown at female bloggers is the internet's festering sore: if you talk to any woman who writes online, the chances are she will instantly be able to reel off a greatest hits of insults. But it's very rarely spoken about, for both sound and unsound reasons. No one likes to look like a whiner -- particularly a woman writing in male-dominated fields such as politics, economics or computer games. Others are reluctant to give trolls the "satisfaction" of knowing they're emotionally affected by the abuse or are afraid of incurring more by speaking out.

Both are understandable reasons but there's another, less convincing one: doesn't everyone get abuse on the internet? After all, the incivility of the medium has prompted a rash of op-eds and books about the degradation of discourse.

While I won't deny that almost all bloggers attract some extremely inflammatory comments -- and LGBT or non-white ones have their own special fan clubs, too -- there is something distinct, identifiable and near-universal about the misogynist hate directed at women online. As the New Statesman blogger David Allen Green told me: "In three years of blogging and tweeting about highly controversial political topics, I have never once had any of the gender-based abuse that, say, Cath Elliott, Penny Red or Ellie Gellard routinely receive."

So far, I've got off lightly -- most of the off-colour comments I get are just that, off colour. My personal favourite is the man who suggested I should drink his sperm, although there is a special place in my heart for whoever wrote:

Why is it that young females with three names and large hairdos are always haters of large, successful, popular producers, and always buy into every anti-capitalist myth produced by the government subsidized educational establishments? Are they (three-named females with large hair) really the most naive among us, or the most envious of success?

(On reflection, I've decided there's probably a political side to Sarah Jessica Parker and Sophie Ellis Bextor I hadn't previously known about.)

The first time I wrote an article that attracted a lot of adverse comment, I lay awake that night, wondering if I would write another blog post. Even if the individual comments are (just) within the bounds of civility, the effect of feeling a wave of attack wash over you is one that has to be experienced to be understood. After a while, you toughen up: stop reading the comments or stop letting them get to you.

But that's the small beer (which is what the comments I've attracted are). What does it feel like to be subjected to regular rape threats or death threats? To have people send you emails quoting your address, or outlining their sexual fantasies about you? That's the reality of what many female bloggers experience.

It's my belief that "normal" net users simply don't realise what it feels like to open the front door to a chorus of commenters howling at you about your opinions, your name, your appearance, your sexuality. If they did, we might all have a little less tolerance, be a little less ready to excuse sexist abuse as part of the "rough and tumble" of blogging.

So here, nine bloggers describe the kind of abuse they get, how it makes them feel, and what -- if anything -- they believe can be done about it. Please be warned: some of the abuse described is graphic.

Kate Smurthwaite

Feminist activist and comedienne, author of Cruellablog

I get abusive comments on my blog or under my videos. Some is straight up hate-speech: fat, ugly, desperate or a bitch who deserves to be slapped, hit or gang-raped. Other times it is in the form of unsolicited advice: subjects I "shouldn't" cover or opinions I "shouldn't" have. I'd say in a typical week I get 10-20 abusive comments though there are undoubtedly more that I don't see on other sites.

The vast majority of the abuse is gender-related. There is a clear link to internet pornography. Much of the language used could have come straight from pornographic sites. For example, from this week: "IF THIS TRASH TALKING K*NT HAD HER F*CKNG, TONGUE RIPPED OUT OF HER SUCK-HOLE..." [I won't correct the spelling or grammar, that would seem odd].

At first it really upset me, but much less so now. My friends are always surprised with the casualness with which I can mention threats of gang rape. The unsolicited advice is worse because the message seems to be: "Just comply with the patriarchy a little tiny bit more and everything will be OK." That's sinister.

What frightens me the most is when an abusive message includes my personal details. I've had my own address quoted at me with a rape threat and -- yes -- that is terrifying. That's when I call the police; they're not much help.

As for what can be done, the superficial part of the problem is easily solved. I get very little abuse on Twitter and Facebook because to participate in those forums you need a profile which has been checked against a valid email address. Sites also need to have a "report this comment" button, and use it. It amazes me some of the comments that are left up on sites like The Guardian. There is a difference between hate speech and free speech and we need to draw it and stick to it.

There is an underlying issue though -- the people who post these comments reveal a deep-seated hatred towards women. I find that unsurprising in our culture. Violent, extreme pornography is normal internet fare. Gang rape and prostitution are subjects for popular music. At least 95 per cent of actual rapists are still on the streets. That's the real problem. We need to address that.

Eleanor O'Hagan

Freelance writer living in north London, contributing mainly to the Guardian. You can follow her at @MissEllieMae

When you start writing, nobody warns you about the abuse you'll receive. For me, it began almost instantly: not outright nastiness, though I have had my fair share of that, too, but attempts to discredit me. The comments came mainly from men and they were always in line with existing gender stereotypes. Instead of engaging with my opinions, commenters would make me out to be a hysteric, a "silly little girl" or a whinger. I remember some commenters telling me to stop going on. It was like they saw me as a sort of nagging fishwife, not a political commentator.

On the whole, I've managed to avoid the worst threats and misogyny that other women writers endure but I don't think that's luck or because my opinions are more well-argued. I think it's because, very early on, I became conscious of how my opinions would be received and began watering them down, or not expressing them at all. I noticed that making feminist arguments led to more abuse and, as a result, I rarely wrote about feminism at all. I was so nervous about the abuse I would receive when I wrote an article about cultural misogyny. It felt like I was exposing myself as a feminist.

To me, misogynistic abuse is an attempt to silence women. Traditionally, men have been the ones who influence the direction of society: I think there is still a sense that it's not women's place to be involved in politics. That's why the abuse women writers experience is really pernicious and needs to stop. Women will never achieve equality so long as they're being intimidated out of the picture.

Gendered abuse should be seen as a form of hate speech, because that's what it is. Website owners should remember that misogynistic comments do cause harm and should not be tolerated. If women writers complain to the police of threats, they should be taken seriously. At the moment, there is too much complacency around the issue and women are afraid to speak out. It's a situation that shames us all and it's time to say "enough is enough".

Cath Elliot

Freelance writer and blogger

If I'd been trying to keep a tally I would have lost count by now of the number of abusive comments I've received since I first started writing online back in 2007. And by abusive I don't mean comments that disagree with whatever I've written -- I came up through the trade union movement don't forget, and I've worked in a men's prison, so I'm not some delicate flower who can't handle a bit of banter or heated debate -- no, I'm talking about personal, usually sexualised abuse, the sort that on more than one occasion now has made me stop and wonder if what I'm doing is actually worth it.

When I read about how I'm apparently too ugly for any man to want to rape, or I read graphic descriptions detailing precisely how certain implements should be shoved into one or more of my various orifices, I try to console myself with Andrew Marr's comments at last year's Cheltenham Literary Festival, replacing the term bloggers with commenters:

"A lot of [commenters] seem to be socially inadequate, pimpled, single, slightly seedy, bald, cauliflower-nosed young men sitting in their mother's basements and ranting."

It feels a bit less threatening if you can picture your haters that way. But sometimes even that won't work, and there have been a couple of times recently when I've thought about going to the police. How am I supposed to know for instance whether "Let's hope she doesn't end up getting stabbed in the head or something" is a throwaway comment by a sad little man sat in his bedsit in his underpants, or whether it's something slightly more sinister that means I need to keep looking over my shoulder whenever I leave the house? At what point does "a bit of online abuse" cross over into sexual harassment or hate speech? And how do you determine when a 'nasty comment' has crossed a line and become a genuine threat to kill?

I'm not sure what the solution to all this is, although I'm beginning to wonder if it might be worth one or more of us having a go at taking a test case through the criminal justice system. In the meantime though, I think it's imperative that women who write online continue to speak out about the abuse we're subjected to, and that we expose the Internet misogynists at every opportunity we get.

Dawn Foster

Blogger at F For Philistine. She tweets: @DawnHFoster

The worst instance of online abuse I've encountered happened when I blogged about the Julian Assange extradition case. As more people shared it on Twitter with positive comments, a growing trickle of abusive comments appeared. Rather than simply being negative, it was clear the commenters hadn't read the post: just clocked the title, my gender and started punching the keyboard furiously.

The emails rarely mentioned the topic at hand: instead they focussed on my age, used phrases like "little girl", described rape fantasies involving me and called me "ugly" and "disgusting". Initially it was shocking: in the space of a week, I received a rabid email that included my home address, phone number and workplace address, included as a kind of threat. Then, after tweeting that I'd been waiting for a night bus for ages, someone replied that they hoped I'd get raped at the bus stop.

Occasionally, I'd respond to emails casually, to show the sender hadn't affected me in any way. Their responses usually disintegrated into unhinged ranting, away from discussing how much they hated me and into their hatred of women in general. Blog posts sprang up about me, full of ad hominem attacks, and assumptions about my views. Speaking to friends who also blogged, but were men, I learned this type of abuse wasn't common, unless you were a woman. Even posts about cycling drew vitriolic emails or requests for dates and sex. Being a woman on the internet seemed to be enough to anger people, regardless of what you were writing.

In the end, I discovered the best way to combat the abuse was to ignore it. If someone writes a derailing comment, delete it. Someone wishes rape upon you on Twitter, block them. Someone emails you self-righteous bile, don't reply: forward it on to your friends to amuse them during their coffee break. Nobody's entitled to a reply, contrary to what the trolls may think.

Anonymous blogger

The site I write for does get some abuse: "unlikeable bitch", "thick as pig shit", "Do you have any brain cells or share them?" But I think a major factor in my avoidance of such abuse so far is that I am not particularly high-profile.

I would say the misogynistic abuse that a number of women bloggers and writers have received functions as a form of censorship and warning to the ones not currently experiencing it to watch what we say.

As feminists, we know that there's at least something about us or something we want to say that will incur the wrath of misogynists. We're constantly ducking and diving, choosing our words carefully and having to walk the tightrope of being completely true to our beliefs, regardless of whether they happen to please other feminists or (conversely) the sexist majority, but also making sure we don't prompt misogynists to attack us because of an ill-chosen word or two.

We feel like our arguments have to be tight at all times and that we'd better not type out anything less than reasonable (in anger) because the punishment we receive is likely to be disproportionate to the intellectual crime.

The blogger asked for her name not to be used because she was concerned about the attention that writing would attract.

Caroline Farrow

Catholic blogger, mother of three and full time student

My blogging tends to be centrered around areas of Catholic social teaching as opposed to purely political, but when I do make forays into the political arena, it is fair to say that I adopt a right-of-centre stance. It is the hot-button issues such as abortion and gay marriage that tend to provoke the most controversy and comment, and the resulting abuse seems to stem as much from the women as it does the men.

I am well versed in dealing with the "you believe in sky pixies which is proof enough of your inherent irrationality" approach, but I find the personal abuse most difficult to take. One of the most upsetting was being informed that I "deserve to die at the rusty scissors of a backstreet abortionist" when I was heavily pregnant; "God is not your friend, he can't help you now, may he strike you down", cursed the enigmatically named "Teresa's mother".

I am often told how my mouth would be put to better use giving fellatio or that I am uptight and sexually repressed, someone who could clearly benefit from a "regular seeing-to" and how my defence of conservative values stems from a deep-seated need to be anally penetrated. I am crying out for anal rape to be put in my place, preferably by an HIV-positive male who is not wearing a condom, in order to understand the iniquity of the Church's teaching on contraception.

The comments about my appearance tend to focus upon the fact that I am unattractive but yet paradoxically inviting sexual advances. People would deign to have sex with me either out of pity or to teach me a lesson.

Although on one level I am able to brush off comments of this nature, which say more about the inadequacy of the poster than they do me, it does feel like violation and I won't publish them because they make my blog feel squalid, unsafe and invaded, which is the main effect of abuse - be it sexually-motivated or personal attacks upon me or my family. People have wished teenage pregnancies, STDs and homosexuality upon my children, as well as expressed concern that someone as toxic as me is allowed to bring them up.

It is unsettling when someone wishes you serious harm or death, particularly when you feel that you have done nothing worse than to voice a dissenting opinion. I find it difficult to let go of the anxiety and tension and have to make a conscious effort to put it to the back of my mind so that it doesn't have an effect on my children. When my daughter cried because she was upset by mummy's distress caused by "those nasty people on your blog", I realised that I needed to be able to put this in perspective and not let their twisted objectives succeed.

What can be done to reduce it? Nothing, nor would I support any moves to legislate for trolls. It's simply the flip side to freedom of speech, we cannot have a society whereby people are not allowed to say things that could be perceived as offensive, regardless of intention. What concerns me is whether or not people might ever carry these grudges and vendettas through to real life, which is what I have been threatened with in the past. With freedom comes great responsibility.

Natalie Dzerins

Author of Forty Shades of Grey, a blog about feminism, the media and current affairs. She tweets: @TheNatFantastic

Last night, I was informed that if all women looked like me, there would be no more rape in the world. I have to admit that I laughed when I read it, as it was exactly the level of response I was expecting. If there is one thing I have learned about being a woman with vocal opinions, it is that everything I ever do or say is wrong because of my physical appearance. Well, at least according to the common or garden internet troll.

Trolls are a funny old breed, but they've never bothered me too much. That's not to say I'm not trolled, because I get nasty abuse almost daily. However, I've never let it affect me on a personal level. Trolls, like the playground bullies they seek to emulate, go for what they perceive to be your weakest spots. As a woman, I'm supposed to care if a bloke calls me a man-hating lesbian.

I think one of the reasons I am able to laugh it off so easily is that insults of that nature prove how little the trolls actually know about me - they may as well be insulting me for having a third arm (I have no problems with lesbianism or polymelia, but neither of them are defining characteristics of mine). And if the best argument someone can come up with against something I've written is to call me fat, I'll consider that a win. If they could actually prove what I say to be incorrect, I'm sure they would have. I do sometimes wish that I were a man though, so that if I were to get abuse, it would be for my ideas, not for having the gall to have them in the first place.

As for a suggestion on how to make it stop? I'm afraid I have none. While we still live in a sexist society, any women who sticks her head above the parapet will encounter misogynistic abuse.

Rosamund Urwin

Columnist at the Evening Standard, she tweets @rosamundurwin

"WERE you abused by a male relative as a child?" I was asked by an online bile-spewer last year. Troll-in-chief "Frank from Home Counties" had typed out his little bit of venom under a piece I had written about some of the sexist traditions of weddings; nothing -- I should add -- that gave the impression that my answer would be in the affirmative.

I only saw his comment after my sister called me at work, upset. Tired of the unfettered misogyny, I had weaned myself off reading them a few months before. That's one of the strange things about these comments though -- there is something initially compulsive about reading them, even though you know it is a damaging habit.

On Twitter, of course, they are harder to avoid. The abuse I have suffered there is nothing compared with the vitriol I have seen thrown at other female writers but I have had what might constitute an incitement to violence (a request for someone to cut off my fingers), as well as comments filled with the f-word (and I don't mean feminism). I have largely forgotten most of the latter now, though, as I simply block them.

I wasn't always so thick-skinned. When I started writing comment pieces (I was a business reporter first), I naively had no clue quite how misogynistic the comments would be. The first time I was attacked, I felt both lonely and exposed. Lonely because I thought I might be the only woman suffering them (I clearly didn't read Comment Is Free), and exposed because I knew everyone else could see them, too. The green biro brigade can be vicious to anyone, but -- my God -- some of them hate women. Many of them complain that feminism has "gone too far", that men are now more discriminated than women, while exposing with their cruelty how much feminism has left to do.

I don't have a solution as such, though I would argue some of the comments constitute hate speech. My suggestions are that the goodies should try to stick together (I googled a blogger's name with "is brilliant" afterwards (she is), because I hoped it would show up in her analytics information) and to keep writing uncowed. We mustn't let the bile-spewers win.

Jane Fae

Writer, journalist and blogger on issues of IT, policing, the law -- and sex and sexuality.

I write for a range of national press and magazines, with pieces in some of them that are blogs in all but name. I also write a blog that started out as something aimed at the trans community, but has lately expanded to take in issues around sex, sexuality and feminism. Oh. I am also, as that horrid phrase has it, a "woman of trans history".

So I am in the fairly unique position of having written under both genders -- and having sight of my email postbag as male and female. There IS a marked difference. In fact, when I first started to notice the difference, I was quite shocked.

First off, even the nice comments seem, at some level, to be more personal. I won't say I never got strongly dissenting views before I transitioned: but there was usually, mostly, some appeal to the rational argument underlying. Not so much any more, as many of those critical of what I have to say seem far readier to reach for the personal attack: the implication that I only say what I say because I am a woman. Or, as one politely put it, "an ugly woman".

Or a feminist, natch. I have lost count of the comments that use the phrase "typical feminist", before going on to accuse me of being an inadequate parent, mother, person and to call into question my parenting skills (this last because I do write quite extensively on subjects such as sexualisation . . . and where my views don't match the Daily Mail consensus, the usual response is whether i have any experience of kids. Yes, thank you. Two, in fact: a beautiful girl and a very confident boy).

One made me giggle because I think it was written without knowledge of my situation or any ironic content whatsoever: a guy suggested that the problem with women like me is that we "didn't see things rationally and what [we] needed was to be able to see things through male eyes for a few days". Indeed.

Nothing particularly stands out. It all sort of fades, after a while: there was a particularly vile thread in the Independent, which seemed to be a reaction to me writing about Slutwalk and suggesting that victim shaming was a bad thing (a lot of blokes didn't like that: several told me all about how I dressed and how I only did it to titillate men; and some of the comments were pretty low. So low the Indie eventually pulled the whole thread).

Still, they're as nothing compared to what I get when people do twig I'm trans: "it" is a pretty common insult that gets thrown my way. Love it? No. Actually, I find it quite disturbing.

If you have a similar story, you can get in touch with Helen via email [helen AT newstatesman.co.uk] or tweet @helenlewis.

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.

Getty
Show Hide image

Full speech: John McDonnell's new, socialist economic policy to include a Living Wage Review

Floating a £10 an hour Living Wage and the possibility of Universal Basic Income, the Shadow Chancellor told the audience at Labour party conference they no longer have to "whisper" the word socialism. Read McDonnell's speech below.

Now the leadership election is over, I tell you, we have to become a government in waiting. An election could come at any time. Theresa May has said that she will not be calling an early election, but when could anyone trust a Tory leader?

We have to prepare ourselves not just for fighting an election but for moving into Government. To do that successfully we have to have the policies and the plans for their detailed implementation on the shelf, in place for when we enter government whenever that election comes.

Everybody in the Party, at every level and in every role, needs to appreciate the sense of urgency about this task, the mess we will inherit. So in this speech I want to address some of the key issues we will face and how we will face them.

First though, we need to appreciate the mess that the Tories are leaving behind for when we go into Government. Six years on from when they promised to eliminate the Government’s deficit in five years, they are nowhere near that goal. The national debt burden was supposed to be falling by last year, and it is still rising. In money terms, it now stands at £1.6 trillion. Our productivity has fallen far behind. Each hour worked in the US, Germany or France is one-third more productive than each hour worked here. Our economy is failing on productivity because the Tories are failing to deliver the investment it needs, and government investment is still planned to fall in every remaining year of this Parliament.

In the real world economy that our people live in wages are still lower than they were before the global financial crisis in 2008. There are now 800,000 people on zero hours contracts, unable to plan from one week to the next, and the number continues to rise. Nearly half a million in bogus self-employment, 86 per cent of austerity cuts fall on women,  nearly 4 million of our children are living in poverty.

As the fifth richest economy in the world, it shoudn't be like this.

So let's talk about the immediate issues facing us. On Brexit, we campaigned to remain but we have to respect the decision of the referendum. That doesn't mean we have to accept what the Tories serve up for our future relationship with Europe.

Since the Brexit vote, the Tories have come up with no plan whatsoever. They have no clue. Half of them want a hard Brexit, to walk away from 30 years of investment in our relationship with Europe.  Some are just paralysed by the scale of the mess they created. Working with our socialist and social democratic colleagues across Europe, our aim is to create a new Europe which builds upon the benefits of the EU but tackles the perceived disbenefits.

I set out Labour’s red lines on the Brexit negotiations a few days after the vote. Let's get it straight, we have to protect jobs here. So we will seek to preserve access to the Single Market for goods and services. Today, access to the Single Market requires freedom of movement of labour. But we will address the concerns that people have raised in the undercutting of wages and conditions, and the pressure on local public services.

We will not let the Tories to bargain away our workers’ rights. We will defend the rights of EU nationals that live and work here and UK citizens currently living and working in Europe. We were all appalled at the attacks that took place on the Polish community in our country following the Brexit vote. Let's be clear that, as a Party, we will always stand up against racism and xenophobia in any form.

In the negotiations we also want Britain to keep its stake in the European Investment Bank. At the centre of negotiations is Britain’s financial services industry.Our financial services have been placed under threat as a result of the vote to leave. Labour has said we will support access to European markets for financial services. But our financial services must understand that 2008 must never happen again. We will not tolerate a return to the casino economy that contributed to that crash.

We will support financial services where they deliver a clear benefit to the whole community - not just enriching a lucky few. We’ll work with the finance sector to develop this new deal with finance for the British people.

We will fight for the best possible Brexit deal for the British people.

There will be no more support for TTIP or any other trade deal that promotes deregulation and privatisation, here or across Europe. And we'll make sure any future government has the power to intervene in our economy in the interests of the whole country.

For Britain to prosper in that new Europe and on the world stage, our next major challenge is to call a halt to this government's austerity programme.

The Conservative Party built upon the disaster of the 2008 financial crisis by introducing an austerity programme that has made the impact of the economic crisis more prolonged, protected the corporations and the rich, and made the rest of society pay for the mistakes and greed of the speculators that caused the crash.

Last year this Conference determined that this party would oppose austerity and that's exactly what we've done. We have had some major successes. We've forced the reversal of tax credit cuts.We also fought and won to have the Personal Independence Payment cuts scrapped.

Sometimes we don’t thank people enough in our movement. So I want to thank Owen Smith for the work he’s done working with Jeremy to defeat the Tories on this.

These are tangible victories that are making a real difference to people’s lives. This is what we can achieve when we are united.

So when we go into government united, be clear, we will end this government's austerity programme that has damaged the lives of so many of our communities. The first step is opposing austerity; the second step is creating the alternative.

Exactly as our economic advisor, Nobel Prize winner, Joe Stiglitz, says: “we have to rewrite the rules of our economy”.

We will rewrite the rules to the benefit of working people on taxes, investment, and how our economic institutions work. So on tax, we know we can’t run the best public services in the world on a flagging economy with a tax system that does not tax fairly or effectively.

I’ll congratulate the Christians on the Left for their campaign promoting the hashtag “patriots pay their taxes”. It’s a great slogan. Patriots should pay their taxes. Labour are already setting the pace on tackling tax avoidance and tax evasion.

We launched our Tax Transparency and Enforcement Programme to force the Government into action. I’d like to thank Rebecca Long-Bailey for leading the Labour charge in Parliament to hold the tax dodgers to account.

The publication of the Panama papers threw just some light on the scale of tax evasion and avoidance. Some of the largest firms in the City of London are up to their necks in it. HSBC alone accounted for more than 2,300 shell companies established to help the super-rich duck their taxes.

In government we will end the social scourge of tax avoidance. We will create a new Tax Enforcement Unit at HMRC, doubling the number of staff investigating wealthy tax avoiders. We will ban tax-dodging companies from winning public sector contracts. And we will ensure that all British Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories introduce a full, public register of company owners and beneficiaries.

Our review of HMRC has also exposed the corporate capture of the tax system, and how staff cutbacks are undermining our ability to collect the taxes we need. I want to thank PCS, Professor Prem Sikka, John Christiansen and their team for the expertise they have provided us in drawing up this review.

The next stage of our work will be to develop the legislation and international agreements needed to close tax havens and end tax abuse. I’ll give you this assurance that when we go back into government, we’ll make sure HMRC has the staffing, the resources, and the legal powers to close down the tax avoidance industry that has grown up in this country.

But we have to do more than stop tax avoidance. The burden of taxation as a whole now falls too heavily on those least able to pay. So let me make it clear: in this coming period we will be developing the policies that will shift the tax burden more fairly, away from those who earn wages and salaries and onto those who hold wealth.

Turning to investment, as I've said before, Labour as a party of government needs to think not just how we spend money but how we earn it. I've announced a £250billion investment programme that will ensure no community is left behind. This is the scale of investment that independent experts say will start to bring Britain's infrastructure into the 21st century.

It means putting the investment in place that will transform our energy system, providing cheap, low-carbon electricity. It means ensuring every part of the country has access to superfast broadband, matching the best in the world. It means delivering the transport improvements, including HS3 in the north of England, that will unlock the potential of our whole country.

For too long major decisions about what and where to invest have been taken by Whitehall and the City. The result has been underinvestment and decline across the country. It’s time for our regions and localities to take back control. So we will create new institutions, not run by the old elite circles.

Our £250billion National Investment Bank will supply the long-term, patient finance needed to sustain a new, more productive economy. It will be backed up by a network of regional development banks, with a clear public mandate to supply finance to regional and local economies.

It’s a disgrace that our small businesses can’t get the finance they need to grow. Our financial system is letting them down badly. The new regional development banks will have a mandate to provide the patient, long-term investment they need.

But we’ll go further than this. We’ll shake up how our major corporations work and change how our economy is owned and managed. We’ll clamp down on the abuses of power at the very top. There’ll be no more Philip Greens under Labour and we will legislate to rewrite company law to prevent them.

We'll introduce legislation to ban companies taking on excessive debt to pay out dividends to shareholders. And we'll rewrite the Takeover Code to make sure every takeover proposal has a clear plan in place to pay workers and pensioners.

But we can do more to transform our economy for working people. Theresa May has spoken about worker representation on boards. It’s good to see her following our lead. We know that when workers own and manage their companies, those businesses last longer and are more productive.

If we want patient, long-term investment, and high-quality firms, what better way to do it than give employees themselves a clear stake in both? Co-operation and collaboration is how the emerging economy of the future functions.  We’ll look to at least double our co-operative sector so that it matches those in Germany and the US.

We’ll build on the good example of Labour Councils like Preston, here in the north-west, using public procurement to support co-operatives where they can. We’ll help create 200 local energy companies and 1,000 energy co-operatives, giving power back to local communities and breaking up the monopoly of the Big Six producers. And we’ll introduce a “Right to Own”, giving workers first refusal on a proposal for worker ownership when their company faces a change of ownership or closure.

So the next Labour government will promote a renaissance in co-operative and worker ownership. The new regional development banks will be tasked with supplying the capital a new generation of business owners will need to succeed.

We’ll support business hubs across the country. I visited Make Liverpool yesterday, where an abandoned warehouse is being turned into a shared workshop space for small businesses and the self-employed. The next Labour government will provide support to establish business hubs in every town and city.

We know the economy is changing, with more people self-employed than ever before. We need to think creatively about how to respond and so we’ll be taking a serious look at how to make the welfare system better support the self-employed.

And I am also interested in the potential of a Universal Basic Income - to learn from its potential from the experiments currently taking place across Europe.

But until working people have proper protections at work, the labour market will always work against them. To achieve fair wages, the next Labour government will look to implement the recommendations of the Institute of Employment Relations.

We’ll reintroduce sectoral collective bargaining across the economy, ending the race to the bottom on wages. And let me give you this commitment: in the first hundred days of our Labour government, we’ll repeal the Trade Union Act.

And what happens when trade unions are weakened? Over 200,000 workers in the UK are receiving less than the minimum wage set down in law. This is totally unacceptable.

Under Labour, we will properly resource HMRC and the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority to make sure there are no more national scandals like Mike Ashley of Sports Direct. And our vision for a high-wage economy, with everyone receiving their fair dues, does not end there.

I have spoken before about building on the great achievements of previous Labour governments. One of the greatest achievements of the government elected in 1997 was the establishment of a national minimum wage, lifting millions out of poverty. The Tories opposed it, claiming it would cost millions of jobs, but - united in purpose - we won the argument.

Under the next Labour government, everyone will earn enough to live on. When we win the next election we will write a real Living Wage into law. We'll charge a new Living Wage Review Body with the task of setting it at the level needed for a decent life. Independent forecasts suggest that this will be over £10 per hour. This will be a fundamental part of our new bargain in the workplace.

But we know that small businesses need to be a part of the bargain. That’s why we will also be publishing proposals to help businesses implement the Living Wage, particularly small and medium-sized companies. We will be examining a number of ideas, including the expansion and reform of Employment Allowance, to make sure that this historic step forward in improving the living standards of the poorest paid does not impact on hours or employment.

Backed up by our commitment to investment, we will end the scourge of poverty pay. Decent pay is not just fundamentally right, it’s good for business, it’s good for employees, and it’s good for Britain. We need a new deal across our whole economy.Because whatever we do in Britain, the old rules of the global economy are being rewritten for us.

The winds of globalisation are blowing in a different direction.They are blowing against the belief in the free market and in favour of intervention. Look at the steel crisis. With the world market flooded by cheap steel, major governments moved to protect their domestic steel industries. Ours did not, until we pushed them to. They are so blinkered by their ideology that they can’t see how the world is changing.

Good business doesn’t need no government. Good business needs good government. And the best governments today, right across the world, recognise that they need to support their economies because the way the world works is changing.

For decades, manufacturing jobs disappeared as producers looked for the cheapest labour they could find. Today, one in six manufacturers in the UK are bringing jobs back to Britain. That’s because production today is about locating close to markets and drawing on highly-skilled labour and high-quality investment.

Digital technology means production can be smaller-scale, in smaller, faster firms dependent on co-operation and collaboration, not dog-eat-dog competition. The economies that are making best use of this shift are those with governments that understand it is taking place, and support their new industries and small businesses. We could be a part of that change here.

There is a huge potential in this country, and in every part of this country. We have an immense heritage of scientific research, and engineering expertise. Today, our science system is a world-leader. We have natural resources that could make us world-leaders in renewables. We have talent and ambition in every part of the country.

Yet at every single stage we have a government that fails to reach that potential. It has cut scientific research spending, it has slashed subsidies to renewables, threatening tens of thousands of jobs, and it plans to cut essential public investment in transport, energy, and housing across the whole country.

Be certain, the next Labour government will be an interventionist government. We will not stand by like this one has and see our key industries flounder and our future prosperity put at risk. Like Rebecca Long-Bailey has said, when we return to government we will implement a comprehensive industrial strategy.

After Brexit, we want to see a renaissance in British manufacturing and as we've committed ourselves, our government will create an entrepreneurial state that works with the wealth creators, the workers and the entrepreneurs to create the products and the markets that will secure our long term prosperity.

Let me just say this in conclusion, on a personal note. I'm so pleased that this conference is being held in Liverpool. I was born in the city, not far from here. My dad was a Liverpool docker and my mum was a cleaner who then served behind the counter at British Homes Stores for 30 years. I was part of the 1960's generation.  We lived in what sociological studies have described as some of the worst housing conditions that exist within this country. We just called it home.

As a result of Labour government policies, I remember the day we celebrated moving into our council house. My brother and I had our own bedrooms for the first time. We had a garden front and rear, both of us were born in NHS hospitals, and both of us had a great free education. There was an atmosphere of eternal optimism.

Our generation always thought that from here on there would always be a steady improvement in people's living standards. We expected the lives of each generation would improve upon the last. Successive Tory governments put an end to that.

Under Jeremy's leadership, I believe that we can restore that optimism, people's faith in the future. In the birthplace of John Lennon, it falls to us to inspire people to imagine.

Imagine the society that we can create. It's a society that's radically transformed, radically fairer, more equal and more democratic. Yes, based upon a prosperous economy but an economy that's economically and environmentally sustainable and where that prosperity is shared by all.

That's our vision to rebuild and transform Britain.

In this party you no longer have to whisper it, it's called Socialism.