Bilderberg Group: Two worlds collide - in Watford
- 7 June 2013
- From the section Business
In the southern English town of Watford, two entirely separate worlds and vastly different mindsets are coming into close proximity.
They might as well be a million miles apart.
Because there is not the remotest chance that the likes of Christine Lagarde, the International Monetary Fund managing director, or Douglas Flint, HSBC's chairman, will ever rub shoulders in Watford with Controversy Clown or Judd Charlton the conspiracy ventriloquist.
Ms Lagarde, Mr Flint and a whole host of VIPs from politics, banking, business and royalty are staying in the luxurious Grove Hotel and leisure complex.
They are the Bilderberg Group, movers and shakers invited to move and shake behind closed doors.
No press, no public, no agenda, no statements, no questions: some would say no accountability.
Across a little valley there is a motley collection of non-movers and shakers.
Veterans of the protest circuit
These are activists, protesters and conspiracy theorists, some dressed as clowns, who have gathered in a field to demonstrate their displeasure with the private deliberations going on at the Grove.
They are the Bilderberg Fringe.
Less than half a mile separates Bilderberg Group and Fringe.
But a fence has been erected, and the hotel golf course, patrolled by police and security guards, acts as a cordon sanitaire between the two.
The drone of helicopters overhead is met with shouts of derision: the movement of police patrols by sarcastic renditions of the theme from Dad's Army or Laurel and Hardy.
But the mood among Fringe-goers is good-natured. They have come from all over Britain, and some from abroad.
Many of them know each other. They are veterans of the protest circuit.
And this is the nearest they have ever got to Bilderberg. Previously the event has been almost secret.
Now at least they have a field in which to protest.
'The ultimate conspiracy'
The stated aim of the Bilderberg Group is to provide an opportunity for leaders to discuss the challenges facing Europe and the United States, free from the constraints of office.
But for the protesters the Bilderberg Group is perhaps the ultimate conspiracy.
It is where the bosses of multinational companies and banking corporations get to bend the ear of politicians and decision makers.
The protesters see it not so much as a discussion forum, but the place where real decisions are made, without anyone on the outside being any the wiser.
Many of the Bilderberg delegates arrive at the Grove by private helicopter.
Those who are chauffeur-driven through the gates prefer to hide behind darkened windows and unfurled newspapers.
They are greeted by cat calls and questions about their parentage in a fleeting moment of discomfort as they are whisked up the hotel drive, and it provides a little flash of excitement for Fringe-goers.
But the main hullaballoo is reserved for the Fringers' own version of VIP.
Alex Jones is a syndicated radio host in the US, who is based in Austin, Texas.
He is the man who helped organise the infamous online petition to have Piers Morgan deported from the US because of the Briton's call for gun control laws after the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre.
His appearance on Morgan's TV show - a one-man shoutfest - was an internet sensation that enthralled and appalled millions.
Jones is the conspiracy theorists' all-purpose shock jock. And he has come to Watford with all guns blazing: Nazi plots, the new world order, you name it.
"I have come to expose one of the most powerful structures in the corporate shadow world government," he told BBC World Service's World Business Report.
"We know what goes on inside of there. Policy is being set in these meetings.
"This is a real global shadow government that they tried to deny.
"Now we have forced everybody to admit that it is going on," he says.
Jones rails against the "filthy parasites" assembled in their luxury hotel; against the "massive ring of steel patrolled by taxpayer-funded police"; against the "Bilderberg police state", and Britain's "German" Royal Family.
"Basically the United States established Bilderberg with the CIA at the helm in 1954, with the UK power structure and what was left of the European power structure, under the Marshall Act, to merge it all under a corporate governance structure."
Jones knows how to pull a crowd.
A message for the VIPs - but not yet
By comparison Judd Charlton the conspiracy ventriloquist and Controversy Clown are both rather understated.
You can see Judd's lips move as his puppet partner Phyllis Meadowsweet lambasts the Bilderberg "gangsters".
Phyllis says: "We've basically come to bring chaos to this new world order of theirs, because we combat evil. We're superheroes."
But Judd insists he is off-duty because this is not television, and says he is really a good ventriloquist, as well as a first-rate conspiracy theorist.
Controversy relies on pathos.
Sweating in his clown's costume, his red nose begins to slide off as he stares wistfully at the luxury hotel on the hill.
"Something is wrong. Look around us, what's going on? Bilderberg is just the icing on the cake."
Controversy says he has a message for the Bilderberg VIPs - for the likes of Henry Kissinger, General David Petraeus, George Osborne, Timothy Geithner et al. But he's not quite sure yet what it is.
Which is sort of controversial.