House of Cards

The 1990 BBC version, that is. Was spurred to watch it by the boys at Kraken, who were rather taken with how deliciously evil the protagonist is. It wouldn't be fair to tar all Tories with the Urquhart brush, however (as their question cheekily suggests). The man is clearly a caricature from the moment he puts on a fake mustache (although the boldness of Mattie's murder at the end did catch me unawares). The show succeeds in spite of the silly stuff. Some of the shenanigans, particularly the way leaks and briefings to the press are used in internal party struggles, ring true. With Corbyn having to pick his way through a nest of vipers in the Parliamentary Labour Party, we may be seeing more such behaviour in the coming months...

Mattie's conspiracies are unbelievable because her editor is right (in the real world, if not in the world of the TV series) – politics isn't as exciting as sex, drugs and murder. Most of the time it's about pale old men struggling to unpick Gordian Knots of policy in a way they can advertise to their constituents and the party leadership. Urquhart's skulduggery would not work now, and I doubt it would have worked in 1990 either.

Urquhart is a pure Machiavel. The deputy editor of the Chronicle describes him as a politician without politics – appealing because of his character rather than his policies. He is all things to all men – able to shapeshift as circumstances dictate. He is the embodiment of Machiavelli's virtuoso, bending to the winds of fortune as he navigates towards his goals. The audacity with which he weaves his plots, and the way he co-ops the audience to root for him, is proof of Machiavelli's perception that there is glory to be found in cruelty and fear.

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