Mandelson's Greek farce Act II

After last year's furore in Corfu, the minister is again courting controversy over lavish hospitality. Jane Merrick and James Hanning report

It was, arguably, one of the most memorable incidents of last year, and certainly one the key players would rather forget: involving Peter Mandelson, George Osborne, a couple of yachts, some of the planet's richest and most influential people – all set against the glistening backdrop of the Aegean.

Obviously unconcerned about the risk of tempting history to repeat itself, the two politicians again came together in 2009, again in Greece – and again surrounded by lavish floating gin palaces to mix with millionaires, billionaires and the world's elite.

Yet, while Mr Osborne noted his attendance at the Bilderberg conference in the MPs' register of interests, his co-player in this Greek drama's second act has been a little coy.

Lord Mandelson, like the shadow Chancellor, spent two nights at the five-star Astir Palace resort on an exclusive pine-covered peninsula outside Athens as a guest of the Bilderberg Foundation – the secretive organisation that has spawned a thousand conspiracy theories.

The Secretary of State for Business used taxpayers' money to fly to Greece because, happily, he had arranged a meeting with his Greek opposite number on the eve of the three-day conference in mid-May.

The taxpayer paid for hotel accommodation on Thursday 14 May, which his department said was justifiable because of the ministerial meeting the next morning.

He then stayed Friday and Saturday night at the Astir Palace, paid for by the Bilderberg Foundation, and flew back to Britain on Sunday.

A spokesman for Lord Mandelson said he had no need to declare the hospitality because it fell below the £1,000 threshold at which peers must declare their interests on the register within 30 days.

The spokesman refused to reveal what the accommodation cost, but the cheapest rate for a room at the Astir Palace is €390, which at the time would have been about £350 – total £700 for two nights. This was for a room with two single beds. Lord Mandelson's spokesman refused to say if he had gone for the budget option.

The next highest rate was €560, which for two nights would have tipped over the £1,000 threshold, even before the cost of meals and drinks, also funded by the Bilderberg Foundation, are taken into account.

While there is no suggestion of wrongdoing on the part of Lord Mandelson, a cursory look at the resort's literature suggests it would be difficult to spend less than £500 per day. There were also concerns that he had used taxpayers' money effectively to attend the Bilderberg conference. The resort is in the "most exclusive area of the Athenian Riviera", says the literature, where "luxury and nature combine to create a uniquely beautiful destination". On a private peninsula, it was developed in the 1950s as a playground for Greek shipping aristocracy, and multimillion-pound yachts are moored there all year.

The Lib Dem MP Norman Baker, who tabled questions in Parliament about the minister's attendance at the conference, said it was an "amazing coincidence" that Lord Mandelson has timed his meeting with the Greek business minister to coincide with the Bilderberg conference.

Mr Osborne sparked last year's Corfugate saga by leaking the news that Lord Mandelson "dripped pure poison" about Gordon Brown while the pair holidayed on the Greek island and on the yacht of the Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska.

The threshold for declaring hospitality and gifts for MPs is £500, half that for peers. Mr Osborne registered the Bilderberg trip two weeks later. He refused to comment on the conference last night. Apparently recollecting last year's furore, an aide said wearily: "We're not going anywhere near that one."

A spokesman for Lord Mandelson said last night: "It's no secret that Peter went to Bilderberg.

"The trip was declared to the permanent secretary as usual and recorded in the departmental hospitality register. It was below the £1,000 threshold for the House of Lords register."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Voices
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face
books
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv'The Last Kingdom' is based on historical events
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
filmSir Ian McKellen will play retired detective in new film
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
'Molecular Man +1+1+1' by Jonathan Borofsky at Yorkshire Sculpture park
tv
News
Glamour magazine hosts a yoga class with Yogalosophy author Mandy Ingber on June 10, 2013 in New York City.
newsFather Padraig O'Baoill said the exercise was 'unsavoury' in a weekly parish newsletter
Extras
indybest
News
people'She is unstoppable', says Jean Paul Gaultier at Paris show
Sport
Alexis Sanchez and apparently his barber Carlos Moles in Barcelona today
football
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sales Perfomance Manager. Marylebone, London

£45-£57k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

Sales Manager (Fashion and Jewellery), Paddington, London

£45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

Marketing Manager

£36000 - £38000 per annum: Charter Selection: Charter Selection are working wi...

Accounts Assistant, Hammersmith

£25000 per annum: Charter Selection: Exciting sports company with a strong bra...

Day In a Page

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
10 best girls' summer dresses

Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil