Former Governor fondly remembered
Lord David Waddington (1929-2017)
Former Bermuda Governor Lord David Waddington's death last week was a loss to not only the worlds of politics and diplomacy, but also to the field of pop culture.
Lord Waddington helped to inspire the scheming political anti-hero of the bestselling House of Cards novels and the subsequent British and American TV adaptations.
Before becoming Britain's Home Secretary under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1989, and later Governor of Bermuda from 1992 to 1997, Lord Waddington had served as Chief Whip of the Conservative Party in the House of Commons between 1987 and 1989.
“He was highly effective and, if not the model for [the Machiavellian schemer] Francis Urquhart in House of Cards, was certainly a principal source of background material,” noted London's Times in its obituary of Lord Waddington, who died last week at the age of 87.
While he was Chief Whip his Conservative Party colleague Michael Dobbs, then the party's chief of staff, was researching and writing the first of his three House of Cards novels featuring unscrupulous Tory Chief Whip Francis Urquhart, who employs murder, blackmail and political skulduggery to adroitly manoeuvre his way into the position of Prime Minister.
Lord Waddington always said any resemblance between him and his ruthless fictional counterpart really was purely coincidental.
And, in fact, their shared mastery of both parliamentary procedure and party rules is where any resemblance between the two began and ended.
Former advertising executive Mr Dobbs had indeed consulted Lord Waddington when he served as Chief Whip to ensure the plausibility of the parliamentary and party ruses Francis Urquhart uses to climb over the bodies of his colleagues — literally, in some instances — to reach the Prime Minister's office.
Lord Waddington is said to have improved considerably upon the budding author's original plan for how to best mount an internal coup against a sitting Prime Minister.
While he served as a British Member of Parliament between 1968 and 1974 and again between 1979 and his appointment to the House of Lords in December, 1990, Lord Waddington had enjoyed a well-earned reputation for avoiding involvement in party cabals: he was always too much of a team player to ever engage in that type of self-serving intriguing.
But as Chief Whip he took a professional interest in the activities of various internal Tory factions, and once said dealing with aspiring Francis Urquharts was an occupational hazard he faced daily because of his responsibility for enforcing party discipline.
On the other hand, he was highly amused when the UK press began to draw parallels between him and his calculating fictional counterpart once the first book in the series was published in 1989 and then when the hit British TV adaptations starring Ian Richardson as the Chief Whip who back stabs and leapfrogs his way into 10 Downing Street started the following year.
Lord Waddington would good-humouredly parry most such media inquiries on the subject with Francis Urquhart's trademark “No-comment” comment: “You might well think that. I couldn't possibly comment ...”
An American version of House of Cards, with the action transferred to Washington DC and the wily protagonist's name changed to Frank Underwood, premiered on Netflix in 2013.
The highly popular and critically acclaimed political drama series stars Oscar winner Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright.