Support for George Osborne continues to fall away

The CBI chief, John Cridland, and the Pimco MD, Bill Gross, are the latest figures to stress the urg

First, it was the IMF that deserted George Osborne. Now, it's the CBI and the founder of the world's biggest bond fund.

John Cridland, the CBI chief, argued in a recent interview that Osborne needs to "step up a gear" and deliver a growth plan for 2012 before it is too late. The CBI is also apparently about to scale back its growth forecast for 2011.

"Times have got tougher and we need more action. It's time to get moving; extra gear, more urgency, more action," said Cridland. "It's no good having a growth review focusing on five years' time; we ain't got five years. It's about growth over the next 12 months," he claimed colourfully in an interview in the Financial Times on 5 September. Dead on.

Cridland and I were on the Today programme a little while ago, discussing what could be done to stimulate growth and he seemed an entirely sensible and honourable man. In his interview today, Cridland expressed support for stoking up infrastructure spending in transport, power stations and housing; which is clearly a good idea and I will definitely back him on that. I'm also extremely pleased that, today, Cridland has come out in support of my suggestion that the government should cut National Insurance contributions for employers hiring young people. I am happy to back him on this. The hundreds of thousands of unemployed youngsters are also grateful. Thanks John. These are good ideas that will get the economy moving, although I don't support his view that the 50p tax rate should be scrapped. That would increase inequality and simply look so unfair to those who are struggling to survive in this awful recession. Relative things matter.

Then, in an interview in the Times on 5 September, the managing director of Pimco, Bill Gross, argued that:

The economy in the UK is worse off than it was when the plan was developed, so there should be at a minimum fine-tuning and perhaps re-routing of the plan . . . the problem becomes if it is too quick and swift and leads to an economic contraction, which it appears close to doing in the UK. Bond investors obviously want not just low inflation but some type of positive growth. An economy that doesn't grow, like Japan, ultimately can't resolve its debt crisis, either.

I do recall that long list of people that Osborne was so pleased to trot out, saying that everyone supported him. Those who didn't, he claimed, were "deficit deniers". Where are his supporters now? Long gone as the economy tanks.

David Blanchflower is economics editor of the New Statesman and professor of economics at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire

Getty
Show Hide image

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