Swiss MP, Dominique Baettig, arrives at Bilderberg uninvited
It was quieter than your average historic moment. No grand words, no crowds cheering in a single voice – no atoms were split, shots were fired or footprints made on the surface of another planet.
I can't think, offhand, of any historic moments that were as drizzly as it was last night, when a small delegation stepped through the gates of the Suvretta House Hotel, and presented themselves to the head of security at Bilderberg.
"I'd like to come in," said the Swiss MP Dominque Baettig.
The crowd held its breath. I shifted to get a better view, and went shin-deep into an ice-cold ditch. I gasped – as one often does during historic moments.
"I am a member of the Swiss parliament," said the member of the Swiss parliament, "and I would like to go inside." Was it a trick of the light, or did the brave shoe of the Swiss MP lift an inch, perhaps two, from the tarmac? Was this it? Was Bilderberg to be stormed before our very eyes…?
"I'm sorry", said the head of security. "But no."
There was silence, broken only by the soft wet sound of my toes getting hypothermia. The tension in the crowd was electric – would the rebuffed parliamentarian roar his defiance, and snap the security barrier across his furious knee? Would the alpine darkness echo with his howled indignation? Were we about to witness an unsightly scuffle between a Swiss MP and a bunch of on-loan CIA officers?
The heel of the Swiss MP turned upon the tarmac, and solemnly the delegation left. The moment was over. Dignity had been preserved, and new chapter in the history of Bilderberg had been opened.
Elected officials have, since the very beginning, been invited to attend Bilderberg. Prime Ministers, Presidents, Secretaries of State, Ministers, Governors, and Members of Parliament. But never, until last night, has an elected official gone to Bilderberg uninvited. It was the first time the 'outside' of Bilderberg has had official representation.
The size and seriousness of the 'outside' is finally starting to befit the size and seriousness of the conference itself. The image and understanding of Bilderberg is changing, and people are changing around it. Every year it gets better.
Two years ago, in Greece, it was a shambles. A few determined bloggers getting strip-searched. A few scraped-together reports in the alternative media. And the Greek police were an absolute disgrace. I, for one, was harassed, arrested, followed, bullied, arrested again, rearrested, followed to Athens, wrestled with, lied to and scared out my tiny mind. In St Moritz, two years later, oh my god. It's wonderful.
This year, for the first time, the conference has begun to resemble a serious gathering of journalists: we have a press centre in St Moritz, we have press briefings, fringe meetings, text updates; an organization called 'Transparency Bilderberg' is holding debates at the Randolins hotel.
Three Swiss MPs have spoken at the Randolins so far, and of course – we had the storming of the Suvretta House last night. A result of that rainy delegation is that Swiss parliament will next week debate the rights and wrongs of Bilderberg. So a conference that for years had barely been acknowledged is now being challenged, questioned, and scrutinized.
With scrutiny comes responsibility, and questions require answers. This will mean the conference changing the way it relates to the world, certainly – they might find it awkward, at first, to exchange CIA snipers for press officers – but I feel, in a sense, relieved for Bilderberg: because once the organization accepts its new status as a serious political meeting – one of the most important summits in the western political calendar – it can start relating to the world in a serious political fashion. It can relax. Normalize. And finally, look us in the eye.
There was a time, not so many years ago, when it was a sign of full-blown crackpottedness even to suggest that such a thing as "Bilderberg" existed. To insist that it was an important international summit, not the figment of a lizard's imagination, was lunacy. It was a meeting, scoffed the scoffers, held by the Loch Ness Monster in Narnia's most luxurious conference centre.
It's easy to dismiss something you don't know about; one can rest contentedly in the solipsism of ignorance: "I don't know about x, therefore x doesn't exist". In fact, I have to employ a similar technique when thinking (or rather, not thinking) about global deforestation. "I'm not thinking about x, therefore x isn't happening". It's the same during sex.
But as ever more information about Bilderberg edged its way into das Gehirn der Welt – sorry, slipped into German there for a moment – so yes, the more the world found out about Bilderberg, the harder it became to deny not just its existence, but its importance. Until we're where we are today: with the Chancellor of the Exchequer and a team from the Treasury attending a 4-day summit of international finance ministers and businessmen, including the assorted chairmen of Fiat, Nestlé, Goldmann Sachs International, and Coca-Cola, the Group Chairman of HSBC Holdings plc, the Executive Chairman of Google, the President of the European Council, and the co-founder of Facebook.
And it's just been leaked that Angela Merkel has arrived. And the Secretary-General of NATO, Anders Rasmussen. And Zapatero, the former Spanish PM. They're not on 'the list' that was published on the official website about 12 hours after it was leaked to a Swiss website, but you have to remember the "final list" is never complete (a single example of an unlisted delegate: the President of Madrid in 2009). Still, it seems to satisfy some folk.
So that's what's happening in St Moritz: Chancellor Osborne and his Treasury team are attending a 4 day international summit with the Swedish Foreign Minister, the Chancellor of Austria, the Director General of the WTO, the Chairman of Novartis (revenue in 2010: $50 billion), and the Chairman of Kissinger Associates. And I'm just off down the hill for a press briefing.
Apparently, someone just spotted Bill Gates.