Well, the world’s media certainly lifted the cloak of secrecy. So I guess I’m OK to blog about the security stuff in the public domain.
I’m talking about the Bilderberg Conference, held at the 5-star Grove Hotel in Watford at the beginning of June, causing commentators to dub our anti-climb, anti-ram, anti-mob attack steel fence around the venue ‘The Great Wall of Watford’.
Though visits I’ve paid recently to Hamerville Publishing and the Buildings Research Establishment, which are both in Watford, made clear that The Grove is about as far from Watford culturally as it is from China.
The exclusive hotel, golf resort and spa’s website describe it as ‘London’s country estate’ in Hertfordshire with a postal address of Chandler’s Cross. No hint of a mention for Watford, save for in the directions.
But I rather liked The Great Wall of Watford for the mental image it painted and the ‘ring of steel’ security it conjured up around this impregnable conference that my firm Zaun is proud to have installed.
Because the media were determined to destroy that secrecy, we now know that Chancellor George Osborne, his Labour Shadow Ed Balls and his predecessor Ken Clarke were there.
So too were internet giants Eric Schmidt of Google and Jeff Bezos of Amazon, International Monetary Fund boss Christine Lagarde and a host of royalty from around the world.
And, apparently, according to Charlie Skelton – an avid watcher of Bilderberg since 2009 even though journalists are banned from attending – writing in the Guardian, this year’s conference will be ‘cost-neutral for Hertfordshire despite the construction of the Great Wall of Watford’ thanks to Goldman Sachs and other ‘donors’.
So that’s how the huge security operation for the four-day conference was funded. Leaving the 140 delegates in peace to take time to listen, reflect and gather insights. After all, as the group claims on its own website, ‘thanks to the private nature of the conference, the participants are not bound by the conventions of office or by pre-agreed positions.’
So they were debating subjects including ‘can the US and Europe grow faster and create jobs, ‘cyber warfare’, ‘how big data is changing almost everything, ‘US foreign policy and ‘Africa’s challenges.
The conference was founded in 1954 as an annual event designed to foster dialogue between Europe and North America. This month’s event is the first in Britain since 1998. I shouldn’t think they’ll be back in a hurry after the ‘welcome’ they received!