How much MPs really think they should be paid

A private survey of 100 MPs by YouGov found that 69% thought they were underpaid with an average salary of £86,250 recommended.

While you'll struggle to find an MP prepared to publicly defend the 11% pay rise proposed by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), which would take their annual salary to £74,000, many take a different view in private. An anonymous survey of 100 MPs conducted by YouGov on IPSA's behalf found that 69% thought they were underpaid, with an average salary of £86,250 recommended. On average, Tory MPs proposed a salary of £96,740, the Lib Dems £78,361 and Labour £77,322. A fifth suggested that they should be paid £95,000 or more. But don't expect many to say so. 

With MPs powerless to prevent the increase unless they strip IPSA of its responsibility for setting pay (which, ironically, it was awarded following the expenses scandal in an attempt to increase trust), it seems likely that many will either refuse to accept the rise or donate the money to charity. Danny Alexander said yesterday: "I think it would be wholly inappropriate for MPs to get such a large pay rise at a time when every other public sector worker sees their pay rises capped at 1 per cent. I have said in the past that, personally, I wouldn’t accept it" His Conservative cabinet colleague Philip Hammond said: "I suspect the Prime Minister would want cabinet ministers to make a clear, collective statement about what they would do. I suspect there will be a strong mood in the Cabinet that we all need to say the same thing." 

For Labour, Ed Balls said: "How can they possibly be saying we should discuss pay comparability when everybody else is seeing their pay frozen or falling?" When the proposed increase first emerged in July, Ed Miliband pledged to scrap it if Labour is elected and simultaneously called for "new limits" on MPs' earnings from second jobs and "new rules" on conflicts of interests, declaring that "the British people must be reassured that their MPs are working for them". 

Elsewhere, reflecting the line that many MPs will take, Nick Boles tweeted: "If MP pay rise is imposed I'll give to local charities anything above average wage rise at time. IPSA plan is wrong when people struggling."

The Houses of Parliament on August 29, 2013. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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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