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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 24-Nov-19


Sunday 03-November-19

The Power of Credibility in Politics (and How This is Not Always Enough)

We are going through a radical time in politics at the moment. In particular if you are in the US or the UK you may be glued to the reporting on the Impeachment proceedings of Donald Trump or the UK General Election that is coming up on 12th December. In these, the power of credibility is being shown as critical to success.

In the USA, career diplomats and those in administrative posts have been clear and very credible as they gave their testimonies. Many have a strong history of unstinting and loyal service to their company. Most had comprehensive notes about key moments in the past. When asked questions they largely were able to give concise answers. Republican attempts at confusing or trapping them were largely rebuffed. Indeed, some of the questioners gave up on this and resorted to simple and repetitive monologues in their allotted time periods, rather than being shown up by the clear and credible witnesses.

In the UK, a recent edition of Question Time, where members of the public asked sharp questions to party leaders, brought credibility to the fore. Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish National Party leader, was adjudged to be the winner. She listened to the audience, avoided traps and spoke clearly (although her unsurprising focus on Scotland and independence did not really help her credibility with the rest of the UK). Jo Swinson of the Liberal Democrats got mired in defending past actions rather than owning up and moving on. Boris Johnson of the Conservatives came off worst. Already known for his Trumpian looseness with the truth, he seemed cynical in his turning everything to the subject of Brexit. Perhaps the best for credibility was left-wing Jeremy Corbyn of the Labour Party, who was straightforward about his strong social policies, even though these are loudly ringing alarm bells on the political right.

Credibility comes from a combination of competence, clarity and honesty. If you seem to know what you are doing, are communicating clearly, and are honest even when it does not quite serve you, then you will be taken more seriously. And yet this is not always enough. In the USA, Trump may be acquitted by the Senate. In the UK, Boris's Conservatives are way ahead in the polls. Which perhaps goes to show that, while credibility is important, politics and its accompany persuasion is more complex than we at first might suppose.

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