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For most, the first weekend of June was marked by sunny afternoons in the park, barbecues and growing anticipation for the World Cup. In the small town of Stiges, a seaside town in Spain not far from Barcelona, however, the world’s elite were gathering for the mysterious Bilderberg Conference.
So what’s the big deal? After all, the world’s leaders come together for high profile retreats quite regularly.
Well, this is not your typical weekend conference. The Bilderberg Group, established in 1954 by Jozef Retinger, a leading advocate for European unification and founder of the European Movement and the Council of Europe, meets once a year, unofficially, and is run in virtually complete secrecy.
The guest list of the Conference is not public, nor is the agenda, and the meetings are run under Chatham House rules.
Leaks are rare, which has led to a host of conspiracy theories around the real purpose behind the group. Information on past attendees, however, has slowly leaked out, further stirring the fire as some of the most prominent EU and US leaders have been named as participants, including former EU Commissioner Peter Mandelson, Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, Former US President Bill Clinton, World Trade Organisation Director Pascal Lamy, European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet, just to name a few.
If you believe all of the theories out there about the Bilderberg Group, this conference is either a harmless meeting to share information and promote cooperation, or itis actually ruling the modern world.
Concerns over the Conference and its influence on global events have even been brought to the attention of the European Parliament which was briefed by an investigative journalist who has extensively studied the Group, Daniel Estulin.
During a speech to the European Parliament, Mr Estulin presented what he describes as the ‘real intentions’ of the group – to collapse the global economy and make the world a corporation. The Group was presented as ‘an all-seeing evil eye’ and as ‘a virtual spider web of interlocking financial, political and industrial interests.’
Personally, I imagine that in reality the Group’s activities and purpose falls somewhere in the middle, but if conspiracy theorists are to be believed and the group is really planning the invasion of Iran and to kill the Euro in favour of a global currency, we had better all watch out!
To be honest, however, the real question that comes to my mind is – how do I get an invite?
A chat over coffee (with Tanya Joseph, Managing Director of Public Affairs, Grayling London)
What a week in the UK! Following a wave of high profile ministerial departures last week and a very poor performance in the local and EU elections, the smart bets were on Prime Minister Gordon Brown having to step down.
Europe Minister Caroline Flint was one of those who departed, launching a scathing attack on Brown following her resignation – saying the Prime Minister treated her “as female window dressing” and that he operated a “two-tier Government”.
But he remains there, albeit with his authority seriously undermined, and it is uncertain how much longer he will survive.
Last week’s Ministerial reshuffle vividly demonstrates the weakness of his position. Alan Johnson’s acceptance of the Home Secretary job was crucial in keeping the Prime Minister afloat, and he had been widely tipped to succeed Brown, but by taking on the Home Office portfolio he has signalled his support for the Prime Minister.
A real winner is former EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson who has an enhanced role with his Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform.
As an interesting footnote, it has almost gone unnoticed that Glenys Kinnock has been given a Government job as Europe Minister. She and her husband Neil – also a former EU Commissioner – remain significant figures in the Labour Party, and her arrival could signal a determination to bring unity to the beleaguered Party.
But Brown, ever steadfast, told assembled journalists late last week, “I will not waiver. I will not walk away. I will get on with the job and I will finish the work”.
For more thoughts on developments, please visit my blog.
A chat over coffee (with Chris in London)
Sometimes you get a set of political circumstances that make the mind boggle with rumour and anticipation, and this is one such time. The coming together of the European Elections on June 4th with local government elections in the UK and an ongoing expenses scandal has diminished the appeal for mainstream parties in the UK and is creating the conditions for a perfect political storm.
Voter apathy will more than likely result in poor showing for Labour and exaggerated proportions for minority parties like the Greens, UKIP and, worryingly, the BNP. The Prime Minister is in a corner and will need newspaper headlines within hours of the election. Speculation is rife for a big Cabinet reshuffle, so where is the pressure?
- Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has become a magnet for some dreadful headlines, like her husband’s secret taxpayer subsidised porn and the stabvest incident – “et tu, Gordon?”.
- Hazel Blears, the Communities Secretary is the proverbial red squirrel – small, chirpy and in danger of extinction – demoting her would look strong after her vocal criticisms.
- Geoff Hoon, the Transport Secretary has some expenses mud stuck to him and recently alienated the rail industry. He could face European exile if his loyalty to Brown can’t save him.
- Remember former EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson? The now Baron Mandelson of Foy has performed strongly but is unlikely to get his dream of Foreign Secretary as he is too good on domestic tactics to go abroad (and Brown will want to keep his Blairite rival David Miliband away too). A possible for the Home Office.
- Husband and wife Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper answer unswervingly to the PM from their adjoining constituencies, and Ed Balls is Brown’s anointed heir. Keep an eye on this couple.
- Rumoured to have spent a ‘secret weekend’ with the PM in Chequers, we may see the return of Sadie to the front benches as guide dog to the new Communities Secretary, David Blunkett.
- Peter Hain, famed for his “tango-man” perma-tan could be in for a shock recall to the front benches.