Brexit vote should have required 55%, says author Harris

Best selling author believes democratic institutions are under pressure from ‘unbridled populism’

‘All over the world, democratic institutions we thought were permanent and safe are under pressure from unbridled populism,’ says Robert Harris. Photograph: Norbert Millauer/AFP/Getty Images

‘All over the world, democratic institutions we thought were permanent and safe are under pressure from unbridled populism,’ says Robert Harris. Photograph: Norbert Millauer/AFP/Getty Images

 

British politics is fractured, and the Labour Party in the UK may well fall below 200 seats in the House of Commons after the next general election, according to best-selling author Robert Harris.

Harris, a long-standing Labour donor who withdrew his support for the party last year, is a former political journalist who has written ten bestselling novels: Fatherland, Enigma, Archangel, Pompeii, Imperium, The Ghost, Lustrum, The Fear Index, An Officer and a Spy and Conclave.

Several of his books have been filmed, including The Ghost, which was directed by Roman Polanski.

His latest book, Conclave, is set against the backdrop of a papal election in the Vatican.

In an interview with Hugh Linehan for The Irish Times Inside Politics podcast, Harris talked about the state of contemporary politics, including the UK’s vote to leave the European Union.

“The extraordinary thing is a bare majority was enough,” he reflects.

“I think that as time goes on and economic buffeting becomes greater, that will come to be seen as more of a problem. Constitutional change should require at least a 55 per cent majority.”

Harris’s satirical thriller The Ghost is a thinly-veiled portrait of Tony Blair in the aftermath of Blair’s retirement from British politics.

“Historians will look back and see this great election-winning machine,” he says of the Blair years.

“But the whole thing turned out to be smoke and mirrors. There was no permanent ideology left behind.”

However, he criticised the current Labour leadership for its rejection of its own history. “There’s no way a party can come back if it disavows 13 years in power.”

His popular “Cicero” trilogy – Imperium, Lustrum and Dictator - focused on the fall of the Roman republic.

“The lesson of the Roman republic is that constitutions, however ancient, can be subjected to pressures and change,” he says.

“All over the world, democratic institutions we thought were permanent and safe are under pressure from unbridled populism.

“The candidates being thrown up are extraordinary. The fact that Donald Trump is the Republican nominee suggests some sort of change has occurred. One feels a new era is struggling to be born.”