Bilderberg conference 2014: eating our politicians for breakfast

George Osborne, Lord Mandelson, Ed Balls and Eric Schmidt arrive for day two of the conference in Copenhagen
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Osborne at Bilderberg
Osborne rolled up to the hotel with John Micklethwait, the editor-in-chief of the Economist and board member of the Economist Group.

So here he is, our esteemed chancellor of the exchequer, George Osborne, arriving at the 2014 Bilderberg in Copenhagen. In a snappy suit, and with a new razor-sharp hairdo, Osborne looks ready for business. You could skin a goat with that fringe. He probably got a trim and a shoe polish at the airport, wanting to look his best for the conference.

Osborne rolled up to the hotel with John Micklethwait, the editor-in-chief of the Economist and board member of the Economist Group. This year, in all, there are three members of the Economist board at Bilderberg: Micklethwait, John Elkann (the billionaire Agnelli heir) and Eric Schmidt (the executive chairman of Google).

During his stay in Copenhagen, Osborne will also have the chance to hammer out economic policy with three senior members of Goldman Sachs, three board members of Shell Oil, and two people whose nickname is "the Prince of Darkness" – Richard Perle and Peter Mandelson.

mandelsonarrives Mandelson perfectly embodies the ghastly, muddy fudge of public and private.

Here's Mandy – or should I say, the chairman of Lazard International – arriving now. Mandelson perfectly embodies the ghastly, muddy fudge of public and private that so typifies the atmosphere at Bilderberg. Throw a rock and hit a public servant turned investment banker. Actually, don't throw a rock, because this guy will have your brains on the pavement before you can say "revolving door".

rooftopwatcher This guy will have your brains on the pavement before you can say 'revolving door'.

Mandelson's boss at Lazard is also here in Copenhagen: Kenneth M. Jacobs.

He's the chairman and CEO of the investment bank, and also sits on the board of trustees of the Brookings Institution. This year's Bilderberg seems quite Brookings-heavy. Jacob's has two fellow trustees in Copenhagen: Klaus Kleinfeld (the CEO of Alcoa) and Paul Achleitner (the head of Deutsche Bank) – both of whom also happen to on the board of Bayer, the multinational pharmaceutical company. Cosy.

There are so many interwoven corporate, think-tank and advisory board relationships at Bilderberg it fries your brain to try and unpick them. Take John Elkann for example – the board member of the Economist and part-time knitwear catalogue model.

Elann on phone, Bilderberg John Elkann – the board member of the Economist and part-time knitwear catalogue model.

Elkann is another Brookings connection: he sits on Brookings' International Advisory Council alongside Marcus Wallenberg (one of the two Wallenberg billionaires here this year) and the always dapper Nicolas Berggruen – seen here having a 'moment' with one of the conference staff. Berggruen Holdings has a net equity in excess of $2bn. No wonder he's laughing. Also, to be fair, it always gives him a cheery glow to have someone fired for leaving a bottle of Windolene in the back of his limo.

berggruensmiling Berggruen runs the Institute on Good Governance, a think tank aimed at promoting 'globalization 2.0'.

Billionaire Berggruen runs the Institute on Good Governance, a think tank aimed at promoting "globalization 2.0", which sounds like a sequel so terrible that Nicholas Berggruen will probably find himself being played by Adam Sandler.

One of the main projects of The Institute for Good Governance is the '21st Century Council', which features three of this year's Bilderbergers: the ubiquitous Eric Schmidt, Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn, and the publisher Juan Luis Cebrián.

Everyone here's so profoundly interrelated you expect them all to have seven toes, three knees and drink champagne through their ears. It's like one gigantic, pulsing amoeboid corporation, held together by a sticky mesh of board memberships and advisory councils. It gloops hungrily along, oozing cash like a snail trail, digesting every politician and policymaker in its path.

Which makes me feel kind of sorry for Ed Balls. Particularly after he made what has to be the worst entrance to a conference in conference-entering history. Balls arrived at the gate without his security pass, spent ages trying to find it amongst the great armful of files he was huffing along with him, and ended up flapping some ID at a policeman, saying: "That's my name, I'm on the list". Sadly for Balls, his frustration was caught on camera by an Infowars reporter, and the resulting footage makes painful viewing. And by painful I mean hilarious. And by hilarious I mean poignant.

A flustered Balls was escorted around to another entrance, carefully scrutinized, and finally allowed in. Once he'd got through security his assurance returned and a triumphant Ed strode magnificently into the lobby. He looks like the cat who got the cream. And then went back for more cream.

And then found half a chicken at the back of the fridge and had that as well.

Ed Balls, Bilderberg Ed Balls looks like the cat who got the cream. And then went back for more cream.

Perhaps Balls will be persuaded by some of his fellow conference goers to join them on their daily jogs. Here's Facebook board member Peter Thiel, setting off for trot along the waterfront. You've never seen anyone take his jogging more seriously than Thiel. The frown doesn't leave his face for a second. In fact, his face been locked in a granite frown since he arrived at the hotel.

thielwhiteteeshirt You've never seen anyone take his jogging more seriously than Facebook board member Peter Thiel.

Someone should warn him he's going to get crows feet. Or maybe he thinks that by the time he's due for wrinkles he'll already have melded with AI and be sharing a kind of ageless cyberternity with Eric Schmidt.

thielfrowning Thiel's face has been locked in a granite frown since he arrived.

Here's Schmidt himself, enjoying a cosy patio chat during the lunch break with his fellow tech-head Alex Karp, CEO of Palantir Technologies, the data analysis and surveillance software company (which was co-funded by Thiel and the CIA).

schmidtkarpreding Eric Schmidt and Alex Karp, deep in conversation with Viviane Reding, the EU commissioner.

Karp and Schmidt are deep in conversation with Viviane Reding, the EU Commissioner who said recently that the British public were unable to make an "informed decision" about Europe.

Far better that decisions about Europe are taken by wiser heads, like those hobnobbing at Bilderberg. Heads belonging to people like "EU doyen" Viscount Davignon, seen here (on the right) enjoying a smoke with former World Bank boss (now private equity investor) James Wolfensohn.

wolfensohndavignon Wolfensohn looks like he’s glad to be out of that heavy morning session on 'What next for Europe?'

Wolfensohn looks like he's glad to be out of that heavy morning session on "What next for Europe?" Wolfensohn arrived at this year's conference with another megarich investor, Roger C. Altman, the executive chairman of Evercore, the "premier independent investment banking advisory firm".

Altman followed Thiel's example, and popped out for a jog after he arrived at the hotel, although he found it tricky to snake his way out through the heavy security.

altmanjog Altman popped out for a jog, although he found it tricky to snake his way out through the heavy security.

All this patio chit-chat and ostentatious jogging about Copenhagen seems like a new venture for Bilderberg: as if they're doing their level best to look normal and relaxed. At lunchtime, the delegates were led out on the patio by the conference organisers, who spent the whole time beadily watching the cameras. If I were a suspicious person by nature, which I am, I'd suspect this of being a bit of a PR experiment for the group.

patioorganisers At lunchtime, the delegates were led out on the patio by the conference organisers.

Over the last few years they've found themselves under so much more media scrutiny than usual that they've decided to show off a new "informal" front. I slightly admire them for trying. Although I'd admire them a hell of a lot more if they stopped behaving like children and held a press conference and released the minutes of the meetings.

Either that or they could give us our politicians back. Ideally before they've digested their backbones and spat them back out on into the carpark. Actually, you know what, they can keep Ed Balls as part of the deal.

Keep Balls and release the minutes. Have we got a deal?

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Today in pictures

Comedy writer Charlie Skelton stalks the secretive comings and goings at the annual Bilderberg conference of leading world figures