Davos and the banality of trust

There is a crisis of leadership, not a crisis of trust, says reformed spin doctor Robert Phillips.

by Robert Phillips

This week, global elites will assemble at the World Economic Forum in Davos. They will be joined by President Trump and UK Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, neither man with unblemished records on trustworthiness and truth-telling.

As of January 1, according to fact checkers at The Washington Post, Donald Trump had made at least 1,950 false or misleading claims in 347 days in office, or an average of 5.6 claims a day. And that’s separate to any of his rants on ‘rapists’ or ‘shitholes’. But do we (or the President’s core voters) trust Donald J Trump any more than we (they) trusted George W Bush? How would Theresa May now compare with Tony Blair in the trusted leader stakes? Or, for that matter, how does the CEO of UK housebuilder Persimmon line-up against some of the bankers in the run-up to 2008?

Expect the inevitable Davos hand-wringing around the so-called ‘crisis of trust’. The pilgrimage in the snow will be rich in the usual hyperbole: ‘decimation’, ‘implosion’, ‘evaporation’, ‘collapse’ are all adjectives freely applied to trust in recent years, courtesy of the widely-cited Edelman Trust Barometer. Few question the data (small sample sizes, poor definitions, vague questions, overstated claims) that underpins the excitable language. Few ask the bigger questions of what all this noise is really masking. Trust is a simple word for a complex idea.

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