Michael Dobbs describes himself as never having had “a proper job”. Perhaps that’s because he’s spent so much of his life hanging around all the wrong places at interesting times. He was with Margaret Thatcher when she took her first steps into Downing Street as Prime Minister, and was there again with John Major when he was kicked out. In between he got bombed at Brighton, banished from Chequers (after a row with Maggie), and in the quieter moments wrote a best-selling book called House of Cards, which later became a major television series. One Chief Whip said the book had done for his job “what Dracula has done for babysitting”.
Born in 1948 on the same day as Prince Charles, Michael was Chief of Staff and later Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party. It got him dubbed by the media as the party’s “baby-faced hit man”. And somewhere along the way he managed to pick up a doctorate in nuclear defence studies.
In his restless search for a proper job, Michael has also been Deputy Chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi, he presented the BBC TV current affairs programme Despatch Box, was a columnist for The Mail on Sunday, writes screenplays for TV and radio and for the Express. Yet it is as an author that he has gained most plaudits.
After creating the iconic figure of Francis Urquhart for House of Cards, he has gone on to write books about Prime Ministers, Kings, conspiracies and the Dalai Lama. He also recently finished a series of novels about Winston Churchill that had the critics falling over themselves in praise.
The TV adaptation of his House of Cards won Emmy awards and was voted one of The Best One Hundred Television Drama Series of All Time, while his historical novels about Winston Churchill have been best-sellers in the United States. The Los Angeles Chronicle wrote that he ‘plunges readers into the mind, thoughts, feelings and actions of Winston Churchill.’ The Hollywood Reporter has recently announced that two studios are working on different Dobbs books, including his latest thriller character, Harry Jones. He is currently working on a commissioned theatre play about Churchill and the notorious Soviet spy Guy Burgess.
Michael was also an editor for the Boston Globe throughout Watergate and the end of the Vietnam War, and put together the Globe’s front page on the night that President Nixon resigned. ‘The rest of the newsroom was drinking champagne while I was sweating over the American Constitution. I never got to find out whether they were celebrating or drowning their sorrows.‘
He has extensive speaking experience in the United States, and has undertaken two sponsored tours for the English-Speaking Union on the East Coast and through the Mid West. The E-SU described his tours as ‘a triumph’, while the Churchill Society sponsored him on a nationwide tour in 2008.
He also shared a girlfriend with Bill Clinton at Oxford, ‘but for some reason she never introduced us,’ he says. ‘It took me many years and a presidential scandal to discover why.‘
Michael Dobbs is the rarest of things, a raconteur and storyteller whose life has orbited around so many of the great events that have shaped our lives. He has observed politics from within the corridors of power and has the ability to relate his experiences with humour and wit. He doesn’t work from a script, but from a lifetime of experience.
Michael was created Baron Dobbs, of Wylye in December 2010 and despite having been described as “a man who in Latin America would have been shot”. In this country, he tends to get invited to speak at dinners.