Members of Parliament have tried to kill themselves due to the “almost unsustainable” nature of the job, a former Conservative minister has said.

Former international development secretary Rory Stewart said it is a “miracle” that some of his former colleagues have not died by suicide, while others have had “total breakdowns in public”.

Speaking ahead of publication of his new memoir, Politics On The Edge, Mr Stewart also said he “despised” the “creeping” MP he became before leaving the Commons in 2019.

“I don’t want to talk about the specifics because this is deeply personal to people but, yes, colleagues tried to kill themselves,” he told GB News.

“These are people I knew. And in very serious ways – I mean they almost killed themselves. It’s a miracle they aren’t dead.

“There were other colleagues who had total breakdowns in the most humiliating, personal, embarrassing fashion possible, in public.”

He went on: “I think it is because the gap between the way that MPs are encouraged to present themselves to the public and who they really are is almost unsustainable.

“It’s mad, because you’re pretending to be all-knowing, perfect, dynamic, confident. You are pretending that you’ve got the answers to everything, and that ‘I know where we’re going’.

“The truth is, this is a country of 70 million people, and politicians don’t really know what’s going on. And yet we pretend to the public that we do.”

Asked how he felt when he was an MP, he said: “I ended up despising myself. I would find myself sort of creepily trying to sit next to David Cameron at lunch, and I’d send these texts saying, you know, ‘Congratulations on your latest policy’ that I didn’t really believe in.

“And so I began to feel that I was being made, in my early 40s, into some kind of child.

“I’d been the acting governor of an Iraqi province responsible for three million people, and a Harvard professor, and I’d run a charity in Afghanistan.

Seven Kings stabbing
Former Tory MP Rory Stewart said he believes both major political parties are ‘basically old, dead and broken’ (Jonathan Brady/PA)

“I thought that I was a reasonably substantial person. And I realised that, as soon as I became an MP, all that was wiped out. Nobody takes you seriously anymore.”

But the former Tory leadership candidate said he wished he had become prime minister.

Asked if he wished he was now in the top job, he said: “Yes, I do. I think it would have been a pretty tumultuous ride. It’s not been easy – Brexit, Covid – but I felt that we had a real opportunity in 2019 to try to bring the country together a bit more. I felt it was terribly kind of divided and fractured.”

He said he parted ways with the Conservative Party because “I belong to a tradition of a much more centrist, more traditional conservatism”, adding: “Also, I don’t feel comfortable in the direction that the party’s going at the moment.”

But he said he is not a Labour supporter and believes that both major political parties are “basically old, dead and broken”.

He said that, while there are “some wonderful people at Parliament”, there is also a group of people who are very, very bitter – unfortunately, mostly men – who feel passed over and feel that their basic mission in life is to try to humiliate other people”.

Mr Stewart went on to tell Sky news it is a “miracle” that Britain manages to keep going because of the political system.

He said: “The truth is, you could not run a fish and chip shop in the way in which the British Government is run. It’s insane.

“And I tried to do a good job… It’s not (that) the politicians are necessarily incompetent or daft. It’s these jobs are mad. It cannot make sense to put somebody into a job as important as that for just a few months.”

He added: “We need governments that say you must remain in (post) for a minimum of two years in these jobs, unless you actually have a horrible scandal.

“And we need to look to the American system where we have genuine professionals as Cabinet ministers… it is a very limited gene pool, MPs – you’re taking out about 300 MPs, putting them into these positions.

“And, look, I’m obviously attacking myself in Politics On The Edge, because I’m trying to show how ignorant I was and what a disgrace it is that someone like me gets these jobs.”

Mr Stewart continued: “I went in idealistic, very, very proud to be in Parliament, thinking ‘I’m going to make a real difference, I’m going to change the world’. And I found that the system and structure just did not work.

“The whips, the party system, these ministerial promotions, the culture of the place was fundamentally not serious.

“It’s a miracle that Britain manages to actually keep going at all the way that we run our politics.”

Asked about the mental health of MPs, a House of Commons spokesman said: “The Parliamentary Health and Wellbeing Service (PHWS) is available to Members, peers, staff of either House and the Parliamentary Digital Service (PDS).

“PHWS supports with an array of physical and mental health and wellbeing issues and the team includes specialists in occupational health and wellbeing.

“There is a clear focus on individualised care, which offers appropriate support when an individual needs it most.

“PHWS proactively promotes health and wellbeing across the parliamentary estate, offering training and learning opportunities to individuals and teams.”

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