Up to "a third" of MPs from French president Emmanuel Macron’s governing party are thought to be considering quitting, with many from civil society complaining they serve little purpose and had underestimated the pressures of parliament.
After Mr Macron’s dramatic rise to power in May, his fledgling Republic on the Move party, LRM, went onto win a parliamentary majority with half of MPs coming from civil society – many total political novices.
The sea change was hailed as a breath of fresh air for French democracy.
But by early August, dozens of new "députés" (MPs) had already complained of feeling disorientated and exhausted after a series of key reforms on labour and ethics were rushed through parliament.
At the time, Richard Ferrand, head of the LRM parliamentary group, said: "It’s a question of time. They’ll gradually learn the job."
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However, four months on, morale is so low that up to a third of the 313 LRM MPs are on the verge of throwing in the towel, according to several top party figures cited anonymously by Le Monde, France’s daily newspaper of reference.
"Around hundred are lost to the cause," one of them told Le Monde. Others put the figure nearer to 50.
"Lots have become MPs by chance, thanks to a photo of Macron on their [campaign] posters after subscribing [to the party] online," said Patrick Vignal, LRM MP for the southern Hérault department.
"But political life is tough. It’s not a teddy bears’ picnic."
Beyond the fatigue of an intense six-month reform drive, many have placed successful careers with monthly salaries of up to €20,000 on the back burner and feel frustrated at the sluggish pace of the French political system and their lack of individual clout.
"They get the impression they don’t serve much purpose and wonder whether there’s much point sitting for hours in parliament or commissions just to raise their hands," one LRM group leader is cited as saying.
The malaise came to an embarrassing head this week when one female MP said he was fed up "eating pasta" on what she considered a meagre salary compared to her previous private sector job given the marathon hours.
In fact, MPs are paid more than €5,000 per month, three times the minimum wage – a point made by Mr Macron’s government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux, who told MPs to have some tact. "Serving one’s country is priceless," he told Cnews.
Joachim Son-Forget, who represents French abroad, advised such MPs to "become experts in one domain". Yet many are reportedly terrified of speaking to the media for fear of making a faux pas due to inexperience.
To remedy the situation, a group of ten veteran MPs have launched an informal group called Care (in English) to mollycoddle the disillusioned parliamentarians and offer them support and advice.
The name has sparked mockery from opposition MPs, with Communist Sébastien Jumel saying his poor "overworked" colleagues now had their very own "psychological counseling unit".