House of Cards creator Lord Dobbs on Brexit campaigns: “I wept in despair”
Political thriller House of Cards probably could not ask for a better publicity campaign than the political upheaval that is taking place in this country right now.
Nevertheless, we were invited along to a workshop held by Lord Michael Dobbs, the author of the original novels the series was based on and an executive producer on the hit American adaptation, to promote the release of House of Cards‘s critically-acclaimed fourth season on Blu Ray and DVD on July 4. We jumped at the opportunity, and couldn’t help but ask the man who created the ruthless Francis Urquhart (renamed Frank Underwood for the American series) what he thought about the Brexit debate.
Asked if he was surprised by the outcome of the referendum, which saw Britain vote to leave the EU by 52% to 48%, Dobbs admitted he was not, saying:
“One of the problems is in Westminster, in much of London, we live in a bubble. Some would call it an elite, I would call it the comfortable class. By comfortable class, I mean the people who are never going to have to worry about their kids’ education, their housing, their health service or anything like that. The trouble is that far too many politicians live in a comfortable class, in that bubble, where they’re making all these decisions that other people are going to have to pay for – not us. Going around the country, it was very easy to pick up on that sense of disenchantment.”
The subject of the Brexit campaigns is one that arouses clear distaste in Dobbs, who adds: “I think the campaign as a whole – both sides of the campaign – was pretty reprehensible. I spent my time going around the country apologising. We can do better than this. I’m not at all a fan that we, as a political elite or establishment, were able to produce, far from it.”
Dobbs believes the reason for the political disenchantment within the UK is that political parties no longer stand for values. Instead, he suggests, they play a managerial role, dealing with the country’s problems without any frame of ideology. “It’s not enough to simply be managers,” he says, “As politicians, you have to have a series of values you stand by and want to persuade others of. That I suspect is why we’re in the very difficult position that we are right now because we have forgotten about values. We have become managers. We’ve become very short term.”
“It seemed to me that the political managers, rather than the politicians themselves, were in control of [the Brexit] campaigns. Everything was done on a short term basis – on a basis of what will grab a headline. Given that this was such an important occasion, you would have thought that one would have constructed two counter views of the future where we were heading that rather rose above the idea that this was either a rerun of WWII or it was the outbreak of WWIII. Frankly, I thought that was demeaning of the entire process on both sides.”
“Politicians know what happens with their words. Every time they talk about Hitler, they know what headlines they’re going to get. On both sides, they were throwing Naziism and Hitler at each other. I wept in despair.”
Do the dramatic events in real-world politics put pressure on the House of Cards writers to match them? Dobbs smiles. “It really does,” he says.