FEATURE2 December 2016

2017 – the year of Trump, Brexit, mental illness and shrinking chocolate bars

Brexit Features Trends UK

At Edelman’s annual Crystal Ball event, an esteemed panel, moderated by broadcaster Kirsty Wark, discussed what they see as the emerging trends for 2017. Jane Bainbridge reports


How the gender gap can be closed next year may have been the final question to the five panellists at the Edelman Crystal Ball breakfast in London yesterday, but with a refreshingly all-female line-up it felt almost incongruous.

The general response was that women should keep fighting, keep doing stuff, and not to whine but develop a sense of humour.

But the morning started with each person asked by broadcaster, Kirsty Wark, to share their predictions for 2017; which led to a mixture of gloomy and alarming suggestions.

Start-up expert, Bindi Karia, rattled off a list of emerging trends but focused on a few including data security and personal security; augmented reality – “Pokémon Go is just the beginning; next year AR/VR will become mainstream”; Chatbots – “one of my favourites – $600bn revenue from Chatbots by 2020 – they can take away more simple discussions so humans can do the complicated stuff”; and cyber-security –“Ransom-ware, is this the new mafia?”.

June Sarpong, co-founder of the WIE (Women:Inspiration & Enterprise) Network and presenter focused on politics with her predictions: “Ed Ball will become a very popular and big figure in the UK. If 2016 was post-truth, 2017 will be no-truth. It will get worse, especially with Trump. And the return of Tony Blair as there’s a huge vacuum in centre left and progressive politics.”

Chief executive of M&G Investments, Anne Richards, took a more financial view of the coming year: “In 2017, we will be facing something we’ve not faced for a long time (and the shrinking chocolate bar is the start). Inflation has failed to do what conventional thinking said it would do, which is increase. But Brexit gave us inflation back and it will feed through to a 4-6% increase on prices in 2017. Business has forgotten how to deal with increased inflation; get used to the shrinking chocolate bar.”

She also suggested that the first indications from Theresa May’s government was that there would be a greater focus on corporate governance in the UK. “There’s a different tone of relations in all shareholders in business and it’s causing reflection in UK boardrooms,” she said. However, she was less sure that it would extend globally.

In terms of Brexit she didn’t expect future trading relations to be any clearer next year. “By 2018 I’m worried that if we don’t get a deal there will be unintended consequences.”

The actress and mental health campaigner, Ruby Wax, introduced her own funny, while serious, take on the rise of mental health issues in the coming year: “It’ll be cool to be mentally ill. It’s suddenly cool to be busy. There’s more communication but we’re all alone – once in a while sending out a tweet.”

“We live in a world where we’re on high alert the whole time. If there’s too much stimulation we are out of our minds.”

Joanna Tatchell, Edelman director, predicted that while politics was going through extraordinary upheavals in would lead to a rise in micro-activism. “People and businesses will take control where they can; it’ll be about micro-activism, doing something small and local. Judge people by what they do, rather than what they say,” she said.

“We don’t understand each other as well as we thought we did. We need to recognise our unconscious bias – everyone has prejudice – and we can’t understand each other better without active listening,” she added.

While questions from the audience covered considerable ground the inevitable, somewhat incredulous, pull of Donald Trump’s presidential victory was hard to ignore.

For instance, in a post-truth society where can people go for truth? “Credible news outlets really matter and need to step up their game,” said Sarpong.

While Karia added: “There will be a rise of fact-checking engines. Read the papers again, they are responsible for fact-checking – and it involves touch.” The latter comment, referring to an earlier question about what could never be automated, to which the panel had responded, “touch”.

So will Trump get impeached? It’s a possibility. “He has 75 open legal cases against him,” said Richards.

Wax, who interviewed Trump many years ago, added: “We’re in a culture of fear and like Hitler he knows how to push that button.”