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BUSINESS AND SOCIETY | 9

freshfields.com

For much of the post-war era, control of major Western

democracies passed from one historic party to another, with

attitudes towards business tilting (though rarely capsizing)

in the handover. But the crash of 2008 has shifted more voters

to the electoral extremes, shown here in the dramatic upward

swing in support for both left- and right-wing populists since the

financial crisis. Driven by widespread rejection of 'elites', populist

politicians at both ends of the spectrum draw support by pledging

to stand up for the marginalised. This often involves intervening

in markets and closing borders. Whether or not they ultimately

win power, populists exert a gravitational pull on political debate;

even if Geert Wilders and Marine Le Pen lose, their 'drawbridge

up' ideas are likely to influence whoever emerges victorious in

the Netherlands and France.

* 33 European countries; post-communist states

included from the year of first elections

Source: Timbro (cited in The Economist)

2016

1980

12

0

right wing

left wing

Votes for totalitarian and authoritarian populist parties.

As % of votes in most recent national elections*

But what if it doesn't? Some economists have

suggested such a large cut in corporate tax rates

(from 35 to 15 per cent) would lead to damaging

budget deficits. Others have claimed that his planned

income tax reforms would disproportionately favour

the wealthiest 1 per cent. If, instead of improving

the lot of those who voted him into power, President

Trump increases the gap between the haves and the

have nots, what happens then?

oday just 6 per cent of

people aged 16 to 26 profess

to admire business owners;

change the subject to bankers

and the figure falls to 2 per cent.

Edelman's latest trust barometer reveals the

biggest-ever annual drop in public trust of

institutions and their leaders, with 53 per cent

of respondents saying the current 'system' is

unfair and offers little hope for the future.

If the popular mood rejects the 'statelessness' of

large corporations, it also objects to their apparent

facelessness when things go wrong. In response,

governments and regulators are increasingly

using the threat of personal sanctions as a way

of improving corporate conduct.

53% of respondents to

Edelman's trust barometer say

the current 'system' is unfair

T

5

Driving a rise in support

for populists and a shift

in political debate...

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