Cancelled: Rebuilding Trust | Populists, elitists, and the future of our democracy

Sir John Graham Lecture | 2020

Delivered by


Associate Professor of Philosophy and Public Policy at the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford.

Circle Tom


Trust has declined steadily in the developed world over some decades; more sharply in recent years.
The great economic and socially liberal consensus of post-WW2 governments has shattered, exposing a political climate that is increasingly fevered and volatile.
In his 2021 Sir John Graham Lecture, Associate Professor Thomas Simpson will explore whether our future is one of increasing polarisation, or whether a new consensus can be forged, with trust at its core.



Thomas Simpson is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Public Policy at the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford, and a Senior Research Fellow at Wadham College.

Educated at Cambridge, he completed his BA, MPhil and PhD at the University before returning as a Research Fellow at Sidney Sussex College. Between degrees he served as an officer with the Royal Marines Commandos for 5 years. He served in Northern Ireland; Baghdad, Iraq; and Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
Named as one of BBC Radio 3’s “New Generation Thinkers” in 2017, Thomas has written extensively for academic and public audiences, taking a particular interest in trust, and how we can restore it. His research continues to explore the factors which undermine trust, and the conditions required to maintain trust between people in our society.

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In the meantime – listen to the Maxim Institute Podcast with Tom Simpson & Richard Ekins


Since 2008, the annual Sir John Graham has provided a unique opportunity to hear leading experts contribute to public debate in New Zealand. To see previous lectures in the series, click here.

Sir John Graham was an exemplary New Zealander who throughout his life displayed the consistency of character and care for others we hope for in the best of our leaders. Along with his well-known leadership roles as Captain of the All Blacks, Headmaster of Auckland Grammar, and Chancellor of the University of Auckland, Sir John inspired and led many organisations, including Maxim Institute.

Appropriately, he was recognised with a CBE in 1994 for his services to education and the community, and was further honoured when he was knighted in 2011. As a Founding Trustee of Maxim, Sir John Graham’s deep love for New Zealand, his passion for education, and concern for those on the margins of life remain at the heart of our work, and we are honoured to be able to hold this annual lecture in his name.

With special thanks to our exclusive wine sponsor, Martinborough Vineyard, and grateful acknowledgement to the support of the New Zealand Law Foundation for sponsoring this event. 

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