Bilderberg 2012: “Like a corporate cross between Santa Claus and a big friendly squid.”

It’s just as well that Ireland said ‘Yes’ to the Fiscal Treaty.  I can only imagine the embarrassed silences Irish Finance Minister, Michael Noonan, would have experienced this weekend if the result had gone the other way.  Where is Michael?  He’s in the US.  Virginia, since you ask.  In Chantilly.  At the 60th annual Bilderberg conference…  It’s quite a list of attendees

Some names you might recognise include Lord [Peter] Mandelson and US Senator John Kerry, as well as the chairmen of  Barclays and HSBC – to mention just two of the financial interests present.  Google and Microsoft are represented.  And the White House, natch.  A scattering of media representatives are there too, including columnists from The Economist, the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times.  And a trio of Bilderberg Steering Committee members – UK Lord Chancellor, Kenneth Clarke MP, James A Johnson, director of Goldman Sachs, and another Irishman, Peter Sutherland, chairman of Goldman Sachs International. Around 145 ‘participants’ are there.

But it’s all fine.  As the press release on the Bilderberg Meetings Official Website, dated 31 May, tells us

Bilderberg’s only activity is its annual Conference. At the meetings, no resolutions are proposed, no votes taken, and no policy statements issued. Since 1954, fifty-nine conferences have been held. The names of the participants are made available to the press.  Participants are chosen for their experience, their knowledge, and their standing; all participants attend Bilderberg in a private and not an official capacity. [added emphasis]

ANYhoo, The Guardian’s Charlie Skelton is still there.  [So you don’t have to be? – Ed]  He’s outside the security barriers.

The official list of participants was released early this year. Praise where praise is due: well done Bilderberg for starting to behave like a grown-up political summit. Good behaviour like this should be given positive reinforcement – I feel like I should ruffle Henry Kissinger’s hair and toss him a meaty treat. Alas, I think I might be dropped by a sniper before I could reach his wheelchair.

That’s if I managed to get past the eagle eyes of Senator John Kerry. He’s attending this year, alongside Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana. I can imagine they’d grab an arm each, while Nick Boles MP stood on his little stool in the corner, jeering, as I was dragged from the conference room, and booted into the parking lot by Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister, while Michael Noonan, Ireland’s minister for finance, tells me in no uncertain terms to get lost. Which, by the way, is news to me – Ireland has a minister for finance?

What a lovely lot of politicians we’ve got at this year’s Bilderberg. What a shot in the arm for democracy. I don’t know if Lord Mandelson belongs on a list of public servants, but he’s here; he’s becoming quite a regular these days. Mandelson will be striving privately towards a better world with the Polish finance minister, the Finnish finance minister – and, wait, who’s this…?

Why, it’s cuddly old Bilderberg insider, the Lord Chancellor, Kenneth Clarke MP. No wonder the press officer at the Ministry for Justice last week was so unwilling to talk: “I’m not in a position to either deny or confirm that the minister will be attending.” Yup. That’s exactly the sort of transparency and openness Ken is so keen to see implemented – as he said only a few months ago:

“Transparency is the most effective public inoculation against corruption that any country can have. There is a strong public interest case for almost all government information to be open to scrutiny.”

How very true. I feel a Freedom of Information request coming on.

We do have some of the topics for discussion

The Conference will deal mainly with political, economic and societal issues like Transatlantic Relations, Evolution of the Political Landscape in Europe and the US, Austerity and Growth in Developed Economies, Cyber Security, Energy Challenges, the Future of Democracy, Russia, China and the Middle East. [added emphasis]

Approximately 145 participants will attend of whom about two-thirds come from Europe and the balance from North America and other countries. About one-third is from government and politics, and two-thirds are from finance, industry, labor, education, and communications. The meeting is private in order to encourage frank and open discussion.

You never know, they might even come up with a solution to the European Project’s political trilemma…

[You do know the tinfoil doesn’t work? – Ed]  Indeed.

Adds  An Irish Times report notes that Peter Sutherland, of Goldman Sachs, is one of two former Irish Attorney Generals in attendance.  And it sounds like Minister Noonan didn’t get the ‘private and not an official capacity’ memo…

A spokesman for the Minister said the conferences were attended by some of the leading figures in the political and business worlds, so it was important for Ireland to be represented. “You’re better off in than out,” he said.

He added the Minister was working to promote a positive image of Ireland and would use the opportunity to advance Ireland’s case for investment, as well as represent the country’s position on the euro zone crisis.