Several cars with blacked-out windows entered the gates of the Grove Hotel, near Watford, in Hertfordshire, this morning for the secretive meeting of the international Bilderberg Group.
It is thought billionaire executives from multinational companies such as Amazon and Google, high-ranking political figures including Chancellor George Osborne, and even members of royal families are among the 130 or so attendees.
Amid tight security, members of the press and more than 100 protesters gathered in a fenced-off area just inside the grounds of the hotel, but about half a mile from the redbrick hotel.
As delegates arrived for the four-day meeting from around 10.30am, protesters heckled their cars, shouting “scum”, “pay your taxes” and “shame on you” as they disappeared down the driveway.
The demonstrators, who gathered in the sunshine to wave anti-capitalist placards, play guitars and listen to speeches, were searched for alcohol and drugs as they entered the site.
Labour MP Michael Meacher spoke out against the conference to the press and protesters and called the delegates the “real top brass of Western finance capitalism”.
He said he believed Mr Osborne would be attending for the sixth time this year, and named the meeting’s “steering committee” as Henri de Castries, the chairman of Axa, Peter Thiel, “a billionaire venture capitalist”, Thomas Enders from EADS, the defence manufacturing company, and Peter Sutherland, the chairman of Goldman Sachs.
Speaking in the pen near the hotel gates, he said: “They are the leaders of the biggest banks, the biggest multinational companies, people from the UN institutions like the World Bank, World Trade Organisation, several EU commissioners and several politicians from the US, Canada, the UK and the EU.
“These are people who are all in the most dominant positions in the governance of Western capitalism.
“They only meet in order to concert their plans about the future of capitalism over the immediate future period - the next year or two.
“My objection is that it’s being done in utter secrecy with the police keeping everyone else out.”
Mr Meacher said although he has no problem with powerful people meeting in private, the numbers at the Bilderberg meeting means they should be held accountable.
“When 130 of the leaders from all across the West get together, and many of these are billionaires, they are people who are immensely wealthy and immensely powerful,” he said.
“And when they all get together, it’s not just to have a chat about the latest problem, it is to concert plans for the future of capitalism in the West.
“That is on a very different scale.”
Alex Jones, the US television personality and Bilderberg researcher, drew huge crowds when he arrived in the afternoon and whipped up the protesters by speaking through a megaphone.
He told the press: “It is very, very sinister.
“Not everybody who goes to Bilderberg, from my research, is a scoundrel or a villain. But there are definitely villains who are there who are basically trying to organise government and business.”
Judd Charlton, a ventriloquist from Camden in north London, said: “We are basically here to bring down the parasites who are drug dealers and bank collapsers who seem to want to destroy this world.”