Soap Box: Chris Rumfitt, managing director, public affairs, Edelman

Evidence of the worldwide collapse of trust in politicians is everywhere.

Chris Rumfitt: 'evidence of the worldwide collapse of trust in politicians is everywhere'
Chris Rumfitt: 'evidence of the worldwide collapse of trust in politicians is everywhere'

From falling turnouts at the polls to the declining trust in Government shown in Edelman's Trust Barometer published last week, the data to back this up is ample. Even in fiction like David Cameron's favourite drama, The Killing, politicians like Hartmann and Bremer are routinely represented as liars who would, in their case, cover up a murder if it helped an election campaign.

So how do politicians around the world address the fact that no-one trusts them? Most fundamentally, they should only promise what they can actually deliver.

The hot topic of executive pay has been a brilliant case study in the causes of collapsing trust, with the Government talking up its plans to curb top bosses' bonuses even when most experts were warning that, in practice, change would be hard to deliver.

Just days after the Government announced plans on top pay, news emerged of a intended bumper bonus for RBS boss Stephen Hester. And the same Prime Minister who was previously promising to clamp down on excessive pay found himself as an apologist for Hester's bonus, stressing it was within the rules and 'chaos' would have ensued had it been withheld.

Top pay is a thorny issue and the Government in a difficult position. Despite the fact the bonus was eventually given back, the main consequence of this episode seems to be that the public feels misled and trust in politicians has taken another hit. As the public sees it, politicians promised to do something and didn't.

Politicians telling people what they want to change is at the heart of politics - but being honest about the things they can't change is even more vital. The rebuilding of trust must start with honesty about the limitations of power, and the age of promising things they can never deliver must end.

Also read: 'Danny Rogers: Tomorrow's CEOs must be a force for good'

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