Blow-by-blow on the blogosphere

This week the political blogs are obsessed, not surprisingly, with local elections but some of the e

My promised second part of a council, Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliamentary election-focused blog has morphed into its own feature. But there's still room for the sideways glance - riddled with exposed hypocrisy and campaign blundering - that follows.

A war of words has flared up in the Liverpool ward of Kensington and Fairfield. Labour councillor Louise Baldcock accused the Lib Dems of gutter politics, wasting money and poor hand-writing. She later goads an anonymous poster over the content of the Lib Dems leaflets.

More leafleting troubles in Bristol where Guido Fawkes believes he has exposed a Labour candidate's photoshopped attempt at claiming he was on an anti-Iraq demo to boost his anti-war credentials.

For anyone interested in the minutiae of a council candidate’s campaign trail look no further than Richard Baum, Lib Dem candidate for St Mary's Ward, Bury. Hear
how
Richard confronts rain, borrowing a wayward umbrella from a councillor. Gasp as he tells of his opinions on luxury flats. And bite your lip along with Richard as he recounts his tale of frustration with Orange customer services.

Over in Wales, I found the true identity of one of Welsh politics' top bloggers is someone I regularly play football with. When I found out I told Blamerbell Briefs it was like discovering the true identity of Superman, while he compared it to discovering your father plays battle games in the attic.

He
discovered
Education Secretary Alan Johnson had sent a message of good luck to Plaid candidate Carolyn Evans. While it may be put down to an email blunder, it has been suggested a Lab-Plaid coalition may be more certain than political commentators have hitherto revealed.

North of the border, Richard Havers offers a witty overview of the "torrent, flood, surge, and
veritable plethora of pamphlets from the political parties" he was confronted with when returning from a couple of days away.

The SNP rounded up 100 business types to agree an independent Scotland would be a more financially stable Scotland. In response, an advert appeared in The Scotsman with a trumping 151 signatures warning against Scottish independence which some
have traced back to Gordon Brown.

There is nothing new in political parties seeking endorsement from celebrities and prominent members of society. But sometimes, as Kerron Cross discusses, parties go that extra mile: what would Jesus do?

Owen Walker is a journalist for a number of titles within Financial Times Business, primarily focussing on pensions. He recently graduated from Cardiff University’s newspaper journalism post-graduate course and is cursed by a passion for Crystal Palace FC.
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I am special and I am worthless: inside the mind of a narcissist

There's been a lot of discussion about narcissists this week. But what does the term actually mean?

Since the rise of Donald Trump, the term “narcissistic” has been cropping up with great regularity in certain sections of the media, including the pages of this journal. I wouldn’t want to comment about an individual I’ve never met, but I thought it would be interesting to look at the troubling psychological health problem of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).

People with NPD (which is estimated to affect about 1 per cent of the population) have a characteristic set of personality traits. First, they have a deeply held sense of specialness and entitlement. Male NPD sufferers frequently present as highly egotistical, with an unshakeable sense of their superiority and importance; female sufferers commonly present as eternal victims on whom the world repeatedly inflicts terrible injustices. In both cases, the affected person believes he or she is deserving of privileged treatment, and expects it as a right from those around them.

Second, NPD sufferers have little or no capacity for empathy, and usually relate to other people as objects (as opposed to thinking, feeling beings) whose sole function is to meet the narcissist’s need for special treatment and admiration – known as “supply”. In order to recruit supply, NPD sufferers become highly skilled at manipulating people’s perceptions of them, acting out what is called a “false self” – the glittering high achiever, the indefatigable do-gooder, the pitiable victim.

The third characteristic is termed “splitting”, where the world is experienced in terms of two rigid categories – either Good or Bad – with no areas of grey. As long as others are meeting the narcissist’s need for supply, they are Good, and they find themselves idealised and showered with reciprocal positive affirmation – a process called “love-bombing”. However, if someone criticises or questions the narcissist’s false self, that person becomes Bad, and is subjected to implacable hostility.

It is not known for certain what triggers the disorder. There is likely to be a genetic component, but in many cases early life experiences are the primary cause. Narcissism is a natural phase of child development (as the parents of many teenagers will testify) and its persistence as adult NPD frequently reflects chronic trauma during childhood. Paradoxically for a condition that often manifests as apparent egotism, all NPD sufferers have virtually non-existent self-esteem. This may arise from ongoing emotional neglect on the part of parents or caregivers, or from sustained psychological or sexual abuse.

The common factor is a failure in the development of a healthy sense of self-worth. It is likely that narcissism becomes entrenched as a defence against the deep-seated shame associated with these experiences of being unworthy and valueless.

When surrounded by supply, the NPD sufferer can anaesthetise this horrible sense of shame with the waves of positive regard washing over them. Equally, when another person destabilises that supply (by criticising or questioning the narcissist’s false self) this is highly threatening, and the NPD sufferer will go to practically any lengths to prevent a destabiliser adversely influencing other people’s perceptions of the narcissist.

One of the many tragic aspects of NPD is the invariable lack of insight. A narcissist’s experience of the world is essentially: “I am special; some people love me for this, and are Good; some people hate me for it, and are Bad.” If people with NPD do present to health services, it is usually because of the negative impacts Bad people are having on their life, rather than because they are able to recognise that they have a psychological health problem.

Far more commonly, health professionals end up helping those who have had the misfortune to enter into a supply relationship with an NPD sufferer. Narcissism is one of the most frequent factors in intimate partner and child abuse, as well as workplace bullying. The narcissist depends on the positive affirmation of others to neutralise their own sense of unworthiness. They use others to shore themselves up, and lash out at those who threaten this precarious balance. And they leave a trail of damaged people in their wake. 

This article first appeared in the 16 February 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The New Times