William Hague arrives in Downing Street earlier today. Photograph: Getty Images.
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William Hague resigns as Foreign Secretary

Former Tory leader will step down at the next election and serve as Leader of the House of Commons until then. 

Government sources promised a shock cabinet change as part of the reshuffle, and they weren't wrong: William Hague has resigned as Foriegn Secretary. He will also step down as an MP at the general election, after 26 years in parliament, and will serve as Leader of the House of Commons until then. In addition, David Cameron has said, he will remain his "de facto political deputy" and play a "key campaigning role". 

The move was not expected, but it also does not come as a complete surprise. Hague had hinted in recent months that he was preparing to step down and he appeared to have lost some of his passion for the frontline. In an interview with The House Magazine in June, for instance, he said: "I came back into politics specifically to do this job and I regard it as my last big job in politics."

Speculation has immediately turned to who will succeed him, with Philip Hammond, the Defence Secretary, regarded as the likeliest candidate. Other possible replacements, such as George Osborne (who has been tipped to become Foreign Secretary after 2015), Theresa May and Michael Gove, will all remain in their current posts. 

Here's Hague's statement on his decision: 

By the time of the general election next year, I will have served 26 years in the House of Commons and it will be 20 years since I first joined the cabinet. In government there is a balance to strike between experience on the one hand and the need for renewal on the other, and I informed the prime minister last summer that I would not be a candidate at the next general election.

Accordingly I am stepping aside as foreign secretary, in order to focus all my efforts on supporting the government in parliament and gaining a Conservative victory in the general election – after four years in which we have transformed Britain's links with emerging economies, significantly expanded our diplomatic network and the promotion of British exports, restored the Foreign Office as a strong institution, and set a course to a reformed European Union and a referendum on our membership of it.

And here's Cameron's:

William Hague has been one of the leading lights of the Conservative Party for a generation, leading the party and serving in two cabinets. Not only has he been a first class foreign secretary – he has also been a close confidante, a wise counsellor and a great friend. He will remain as first secretary of state and my de facto political deputy in the run up to the election – and it is great to know that he will be a core part of the team working to ensure an outright Conservative victory at the next election.

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