'House of Cards' author despairs at 'wicked' Brexit debate

24th May 2016, Comments 0 comments

As the creator of the books behind Machiavellian television drama "House of Cards", Michael Dobbs knows a thing or two about the dark side of politics. But even he is surprised at the tone of Britain's EU referendum debate.

"I don't know anybody who thought this referendum campaign was going to be as bitter and as wicked as it's turned out to be," the British author and Conservative member of the House of Lords told AFP on Tuesday.

Asked whether the attacks between senior Tories during the campaign had any resonance with his writing, he smiled and said: "Political fiction is very simple. What you do is you take reality and then you water it down."

Dobbs wrote "House of Cards", a tale of blackmail, murder and political ambition in the Houses of Parliament, almost 30 years ago after an argument with then prime minister Margaret Thatcher, for whom he had been chief of staff.

It has since been adapted into a hit US series for Netflix, starring Kevin Spacey as a ruthless politician who will stop at nothing to win power, and Dobbs is an executive producer.

Earlier this year, as the campaign for the June 23 referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union began, Dobbs enlisted Underwood to make the case for a Brexit, penning an article on behalf of the character which described the bloc as a "used bus ticket".

In interview outside the Palace of Westminster, the dapper 67-year-old repeated his view that the EU is "broken", with the only solution now to leave.

"If you're on this great liner which is heading into the ice pack, you've got 28 different captains struggling at the wheel, some might say there are too many people on the bridge," he said, referring to the EU's 28 member states.

He said "the status quo is not stability", warning of the pressure of refugees, the challenge posed by Russian President Vladimir Putin and the continuing debt issues facing the eurozone single currency area.

After the Greek government passed yet another round of austerity measures as it seeks fresh EU funds, Dobbs warned: "How long do we go on inflicting that kind of pain, that terribly unfair pain, on a country like Greece before it splits?"

- 'Insulting' Obama comments -

His support for leaving the EU puts Dobbs at odds with Prime Minister David Cameron, a friend who appointed him to the Lords in 2010, but in tune with a significant part of their party.

The campaign so far has been dominated by senior Tories making their case for or against the EU with increasing venom, in a battle Dobbs likened to "throwing cricket balls at each other".

The peer, who as deputy Conservative party chairman under prime minister John Major saw how the Tories were split by divisions over Europe in the 1990s, said the fighting "causes me immense distress".

"The longer it goes on the more damaging it will be and the more difficult it will be to put the party together again after the campaign," he said.

He accused both sides of peddling "sheer nonsense", but reserved specific condemnation for US President Obama, who warned Britain would be at the "back of the queue" for a trade deal if it left the EU single market.

"It's actually rather insulting. I don't remember an American president telling us to get to the back of the queue when we were together helping to liberate Europe in 1944," he said.

© 2016 AFP

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