Is the glass half full or three-quarters empty? Will it get any worse? How long before it gets any better?

At this week’s IGD conference, the industry attempted to answer questions normally addressed by economists, soothsayers and astrologists. I’m leaving them all to it. Instead, I want to talk about an act the significance of which seems to have gone unnoticed. As everyone focuses on the consumer, there was barely a mention of the nationalisation, last week, of three of the four leading high-street banks.

Oh sure, there have been a few bitchy comments contrasting this with the vice-like grip under which Johnny 'Fingers' Fingleton keeps the grocery sector. But from the public there was barely a murmur. And that’s because consumers have lost trust in businesses to regulate themselves.

The lack of trust is not limited to banks. Since the onset of the economic crisis, 40% of consumers said they trusted supermarkets less, according to a Yougov survey, while none said they trusted supermarkets more. And no wonder when, while claiming always to act in the interests of the consumer – to share the pain, or what Asda marketing director Rick Bendel called the “bleeding” – all the four leading multiple retailers have reported a rise in sales and profits. As conference host Michael Buerk put it, “People are bleeding, and if we don’t do something about it, we won’t make any money”.

With the public in this mood, the implications for business aren’t good. The Government can surely feel more confident in pushing through legislation – on booze restrictions, ombudsmen, plastic bags and food labelling – with impunity. Even more irksome, headmasterly Gordon Brown seems to be coming out of this with credit. This is the same Flash Gordon that over the past 10 years ran the PSBR up to £632.7bn – not including his cute off-balance-sheet PFI schemes.