One man who should know the answer is Professor Paul Protz, a political psychologist who has been in attendance at Westminster for more than 20 years. He originally went to Westminster to have a look at the famous buildings, but was so fascinated by the people he saw that he decided to make the study of them his life work.
'The social rehabilitation work at Westminster is divided into two main strands,' he explains. 'One house, the upper house, is occupied by mostly elderly people with delusions of grandeur and authority, who like dressing up and striking attitudes. They are almost all harmless. Nobody listens to them. They know nobody listens to them. But in their own society they find a kind of fulfilling approval that justifies their existence. And they are there, basically, for life.
'In the lower house things are quite different. All the people there are there because they want to be.'
But isn't that logical?
'No, no, no. If you knew the conditions under which they lived in the lower house, you would realise that wanting to be there is a sign of irrationality. The working conditions are awful and the accommodation is terrible. Yet people still want to be Tory MPs. To want to be a Tory MP is, in itself, disturbed behaviour. To want to stay one is even worse. You may have heard John Major threatening Tory MPs by saying that if he didn't get their support, he would call an election and then they would lose their seats. Any normal person would jump at the chance to get out of Westminster. But all the Tory MPs rolled over and cried for mercy. That's how disturbed they are. Rupert Allason is the only one who shows any signs of sanity.
'Of course, one of the things that beckons people to become Tory MPs is the illusion of power - the feeling that you will be running things, pulling strings, influencing things behind the scenes. There is absolutely no evidence that the average Tory MP has any influence - to become powerful, he has to rise above the level of MP to cabinet level, and you have to be seriously disturbed to want to do that. But when you are a Tory MP all you can do is sit in the large central meeting chamber, and give vent to your feelings by waving bits of paper, shouting inchoate slogans and bawling with laughter at other speakers. This is the sort of behaviour that, elsewhere, would have you locked up in an institution immediately. However, they are already locked up in an institution.'
Will releasing them into the community be any solution? Can the community really, in any true sense, care for them?
'Well, not in the literal sense, of course not. Nobody cares for a Tory MP. But they are impressed by them. Tory MPs are much in demand for functions and meetings and parties, at which many people are prepared to defer to them and ask their opinion. This is illogical behaviour, because Tory MPs have never shown any signs of having opinions worth consulting. But it is good for the Tory MP to get this respect. At Westminster he is hustled like a junior boarder at some terrible boarding school and his self-esteem is horribly battered. During the summer recess, you, the community, can rebuild the Tory MP's sanity, by boosting his ego.
'During that time the Tory MP is far away from the frenzied plotting and gossiping that goes on at Westminster, as it does at all mental institutions, and he sees that life need not be a bad soap opera. He lives for two months without waving bits of paper and shrieking at other men in suits. He becomes, for want of a better word, normal.'
'And then he goes back to Westminster for the autumn term, and, deprived of the community's support, reverts to his old bad ways and neuroses. It's a tragedy.'
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