Personal views from University of Bath researchers on the news of the day

Who do you trust?

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📥  Election 2015

Tonight's BBC Question Time Election Leaders Special marks the last of the televised set-pieces, with David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg vying to win trust with voters just seven days before the country goes to the polls.

Professor Veronica Hope Hailey, Dean of our School of Management, has authored three reports on trustworthy leadership and takes us through an assessment of trustworthiness for Cameron, Miliband and Clegg.


There are four ways we assess the trustworthiness of a leader: by ability, benevolence, integrity and predictability, known as ABIP. You do not have to score 100 per cent on all of them to be trustworthy but nor can you have great gaping holes.

On Clegg

Turning first to Nick Clegg, he has had to become a coalition leader and the Great British public is not used to this kind of leadership. Those who prefer their leaders Churchillian or Thatcherite will, by default, hate a collaborator. Yet, the country is fragmenting in terms of political opinion, and collaboration rather than ‘wheeler dealer’ may actually have more integrity. We end up with this need for collaborative leadership precisely because we as a nation are divided.

In terms of ability, he has, at least, been a leader in government. He scores highly for benevolence and integrity, but not for predictability because he’s had to be open to doing deals to form government. The student fees debacle is an example of this wheeler dealing.

On Cameron

Looking next to David Cameron, he is bright and has done the job but sometimes lacks judgement which makes people question his ability. He is a great family man, but is he a man of the people? I would suspect he is hugely individually benevolent within his family and his close group, but does that translate into a collective benevolence and understanding about the lives and experiences of everyday folk, particularly those beyond the M25?

This is the Achilles heel of the Conservative Party. He is a smooth operator but does he honestly care or know about people not from his set?

As for integrity, it’s hard to tell what he stands for. Tell-tale signs are there, state schools for his kids etc, but then that integrity is wiped out by his questionable choice of high profile friends, Clarkson, Coulson etc.

His suave, cool, socially skilled side is consistent and reliable, and makes for good predictability, but whilst that’s what we want from George Clooney, is it enough for a Prime Minister?

On Miliband

So what about Miliband? He must be bright but is he able? He suffers from the career politician’s syndrome: can you lead? Where is the track record?

In terms of benevolence - yes, he does care about ordinary people at an ideological level but he lacks the common touch behaviourally. He can’t translate the benevolence he feels philosophically into a living breathing identifiable "common man" persona. He struggles to put others at their ease as he is not at ease with himself.

He has plenty of ideological integrity but we can’t forget him triumphing over his brother politically and there’s always the possibility he might stab someone in the back, like a minor character from Game of Thrones.

He scores better on predictability. He’s consistent and does behave with reliability but sometimes he predictably gets it wrong.

The human touch

In conclusion, we have three leaders who may actually all fail because they have been too highly manicured and over-engineered by their PR and communications advisors. Our research showed that highly trustworthy leaders in business were intensely human in their interactions with people. They could be flawed, have weaknesses as well as strengths, but above all, people trusted them because they were real.

The Question Time studio audience in Leeds will have the chance to put their doubts to the leaders on the night, and then we count down to the public giving their verdict on who has won their trust. The success of the political parties will in part depend on how the electorate sees their most high profile individual - the leader - and whether they think they make a worthy Prime Minister.


2 Responses to “Who do you trust?”

  1. Jo Moore on

    I"m surprised that you have anything about the election on your website as I understand you have banned your students from having access to political parties on campus, other than for one day. Very strange for a university that teaches politics. Are you afraid of political ideas? Or do you not trust your students?

    • Andy Dunne on

      Jo - thanks for your comments.

      Rather than a ban, we have ensured that all parties get an equal opportunity to canvas students. There is also nothing to stop a student engaging with any political party. The Students' Union has also worked with the student body, and each of the candidates for Bath to hold individual hustings and group debates with candidates.

      Hope this is helpful.

      Best wishes


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