Do you Bilderberg? Or rather, do you know Bilderberg? Nope? Well given the dark cloak of secrecy shrouding the shadowy annual conflab don't feel bad for not getting the memo. For the uninitiated, each year the world's elite bankers, royalty, parliamentarians and CEOs self-imprison themselves in some of the most luxurious hotels in the world for a weekend of, well, who knows...?
This year - this Thursday in fact - the Bilderberg Group is descending upon a small corner of Watford and will be holing themselves up at the plush Grove hotel. Not letting the fact my invitation was clearly lost in the post get me down, I will be blogging each day from the site to deliver gossip fresh from the Grove gates.
Now whilst they'd have us believe Bilderberg is just a jolly holiday constituting a few golf rounds, some hardcore breeze-shooting and most certainly hotel suite one-upmanship, the water-tight security, zero accountability and nebulous agenda could suggest it's a shade more serious than that. Indeed, local residents nearby the Grove will be forced into flashing their passports to police simply to access their homes. That's some pretty sticky red tape for an apparently, "small, flexible, informal and off-the-record international forum." A consortium so clandestine it makes Freemasonry look like Watford Lions Club.
So which technocrats can we expect at the mega-summit in 2013? Only one thing's assured: hardened Bilderberg veterans with a side order of young whipper-snappers. Each year the old guard (Henry Kissinger, David Rockefeller, Queen Beatrix of Holland) woo increasingly more young blood into the warmth of the Bilderbosom. Recent years saw the appearance of Google chairman, Eric Schmidt, PayPal's Peter Thiel, LinkedIn's Reid Hoffman and Facebook co-founder, Chris Hughes at the Bilderparty.
Reading like a who's-who of international capitalism, the 150 strong delegate list is always revealed pre-conference for our delectation. Representing Team GB in 2013 is George Osbourne, Ed Balls, Peter Mandelson, Ken Clarke, Barclays chairman, Marcus Agius, BP CEO, Robert Dudley and John Micklethwait, editor of the Economist. Mandelson is a regular and and Clarke is on the steering committee.
It was revealed last week who will be footing the mammoth security bill for this off-the-record meeting. Why it's us of course! Oh the irony of the uber-elite scratching around in the Great Unwashed's public purse to secure their weekend sojourn. An uber-elite whose combined wealth hasn't been witnessed in Watford since Elton John threw the last Watford FC Christmas bash. Probably.
As people have awakened to the hush-hush conference's existence, thousands of concerned citizens and activists will be flying in from all corners of the world to peacefully express their concern at Bilderberg this Thursday. The meeting's unaccountability only serves to fuel speculation that (contrary to the 'innocent meeting' spin) Bilderberg is potentially used to steer geo-political policy. It is this fundamental gripe which underpins the pro-transparency protestors' ire.
For the first time ever, 2013 welcomes the Bilderberg Fringe, an event within the grounds of the Grove which will showcase international speakers, acoustic music and spoken word. The application for a license to hold a larger festival at Cassiobury Park was rejected by local authorities. The Fringe will also play host to the first ever press area at Bilderberg.
What implications does Bilderberg have for global governance? We will likely never know for sure. This weekend, however, promises to be a frenzy of activity with activists, media and photographers clamouring to play Spot The Delegate as they zip by in a cavalcade of armoured vehicles.
If you want live Twitter updates from the Bilderberg circus and beyond follow me @EllenGraceJones as well as @Bilderberg_2013. For more information about the Bilderberg Fringe visit www.bilderbergfringefestival.co.uk