It is snowing in Davos, home to the World Economic Forum, and fog hangs over the mountains — a cold start for an austerity conference, where the world’s not-so-very-rich-anymore are gathering to work out how it all went wrong.
The party is over in the City of London, and perhaps it is here in the Swiss Alps too.
No boss of a nationalised British bank wants to be spotted pouring Krug down the throats of hedge fund dealers. The ski slopes have been empty.
A year ago things were different. The security queue outside the Belvedere hotel — home to all the best parties — was full of men dressed in designer mountain gear and women looking smart in mink. Mittal, the steelmaker, flew in Jamie Cullum to play background jazz as the staff poured out drinks. The final Friday night started at the Google party, where Stelios Haji-Ioannou of easyJet strutted his stuff on a Rubik’s cube flashing dance floor and acrobatic bar staff juggled bottles of vintage tequila. Everyone moved on to the Goldman Sachs do (too many bankers), the inevitable Bono bash and a London Olympic party, which the then mayor of London Ken Livingstone was seen to enjoy very much indeed.
But this year Bono isn’t even coming. Nor is Sharon Stone. She will, of course, be missed.
The classy thing to do at Davos right now is to cancel at the last minute. British ministers are telling advisers to stay home, just in case the tabloids make a fuss. Last year the London Daily Mail newsdesk demanded its reporter hunt out the Russian prostitutes alleged to have been helicoptered in. This year, he will probably be under orders to spot fat cats overdoing the schnapps. Google is partying on — but its offer of an after-hours late lounge sounds more sofa chat than samba. The best parties, surely, will go underground.
A code word on the door, a curtain pushed aside — exclusive entry to the capitalist speakeasy, in a world where the rich no longer want to be seen. —