News that David Cameron was to attend the secretive Bilderberg Group conference in Watford on Friday was met with anger but not surprise by demonstrators from the Bilderberg Fringe protest currently massed next to the conference venue.
More than 100 activists, as well as assorted press, had passed through heavy G4S security on Friday morning to jeer at the blacked-out cars as they drove through the entrance of the Grove Hotel, off the M25. Other protesters trained long-lens cameras on the grand house in the distance, scene of the secretive meeting attended by politicians and business leaders from Europe and the USA.
Chancellor George Osborne was reportedly in the building, as was his shadow Ed Balls. Cameron, Downing Street confirmed, was en route.
“In the midst of a lobbying scandal, I’m completely and utterly disgusted,” said Adam Yates, protesting at the Fringe event. “It’s a joke and the joke is on us.”
The 28-year-old from Kent added that Cameron’s appearance demonstrated a conflict of interest, adding that the PM should “resign tomorrow”.
He added: “I’m not surprised that he’s coming. They [The Bilderberg Group] have been meeting for years and it’s only recently that people have started to take notice. Hopefully for future meetings, people will start to take action.”
A middle-aged woman with an American accent and who asked not to be named, disagreed. She told HuffPost UK: “It’s not a conflict of interest. He [Cameron] is in alignment with everything that’s going on in there. He’s part of the bureaucratic system that’s brought the world to where it is. It’s all politics – unelected people deciding the fate of the world.”
Earlier, a Downing Street spokesperson said the meeting was classed as "private" so details would not be released to the public.
"The prime minister has always believed in importance of transparency," the spokesman said, adding, “My understanding is that it is usual for Bilderberg to invite the head of government of the country where it is meeting. He will participate in a discussion around domestic and global economic issues. He feels it is an opportunity to discuss economic issues with senior ministers, business people and academics."
Laurence from Brighton (surname withheld) told HuffPost UK he wasn't surprised Cameron was attending but said there was a conflict.
The 35-year-old, who was at the protest for a second day, said: "A portion of the people of the United Kingdom voted for David Cameron to represent their interests, that’s why we elect politicians. A meeting like this in which the very rich and the very powerful have the ear of David Cameron when we the people don’t shows the injustice that runs throughout the political process.”
Protester Tom (surname withheld) from Cambridge questioned the clandestine nature of the meeting.
“The word secrecy is repugnant in a free and open society,” he said, quoting John F Kennedy.
“It’s morally repulsive that George Osborne, Ed Balls, Ken Clarke and whoever else think it’s ok to attend a secret meeting and make secret deals but at the same time try and pass a piece of legislation like the ‘snooper’s charter’ so they can know more about us."
He said the role of prime minister should be open and transparent.
"He should be signing this into the register of member’s interest and should be providing parliament with a full statement on what was said. Otherwise it’s not transparent.”
“What’s the hidden agenda?“ asked Gordon Bradford, 61, from St Helens. “He [Cameron] wasn’t on the original list of attendees here. It’s as though the Bilderberg Group has summoned him. It’s all rather worrying."
Alex Jones, the American radio host and probably the most high-profile critic of the Bilderberg Group, has been in Watford for several days, joining protesters on the front line of the demonstration. He told The HuffPost UK: "They [The Bilderberg Group] has gone from being secret to now we're real but just a political chat. And so they want to hide in plain view and have Cameron coming here. A lot of the time there are 30, 40, 50 people who aren't on the list [of attendees] and that's where the real conflicts of interest are."
(Video by Paul Vale and Stuart Keeping)