The former Conservative minister Rory Stewart has said some fellow MPs came very close to killing themselves when he was in the Commons, and the life of a politician placed an “almost unsustainable” strain on people.
Stewart, who was international development secretary and stood to be Tory leader before leaving the Commons in 2019, said other former colleagues experienced “total breakdowns in public”.
Speaking to GB News before the publication of a new memoir, Stewart discussed the mental health toll on MPs. He said: “I don’t want to talk about the specifics because this is deeply personal to people but, yes, colleagues tried to kill themselves.
“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.”
Stewart said the nature of a politician’s job often had an impact on their mental health. He said: “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.”
Stewart said that as his nine-year career in the Commons went on, he “ended up despising myself” for trying to advance his career.
He said: “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 3 million people, and a Harvard professor, and I’d run a charity in Afghanistan. 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 any more.”