ITQ goes to the G20: It's like a giant First Ministers meeting, really

Liveblogging the G20

ITQ goes to the G20: It's like a giant First Ministers meeting, reallyNote: This post will be updated throughout the day, so check back regularly for the latest bulletins.

7:24:41 AM

Welcome to Camp G20! Are your papers in order? They’d better be if you don’t want to be left standing by the road, staring plaintively at the departing courtesy buses. Or, to be precise, left standing in the parking lot by the train station where yet another bus deposited us a few minutes ago. We’ve not yet gone through the *real* clearance process — although our passports have been leafed through by determinedly chipper and friendly security types every fifteen feet or so. As soon as the lot ahead of us gets through the xray station, we’ll be heading off to the accreditation tent, but right now, we’re in a holding pattern. Thank goodness for jaffa cakes.

8:27:42 AM

Well, it’s just over an hour since I last updated this log – really, I can’t justifiably call it a blog at the moment, since I’m typing in Memopad and transferring it by hand to my notepad, because I am, as previously noted, slightly freakish in my preference for the tiny but perfect keyboard of the BlackBerry over any alternative input device. Anyway, it’s amazing how quickly the screening process went, given the bottleneck potential of all those buses stuffed with just on the verge of getting cranky journalists, but we were through the accreditation tent within minutes, and back on the Final Bus, which brought us here. And where is here, you might reasonably ask? The ExCel Centre – I probably have the capitalization wrong, and any signs within eyeshot that might have helped have been covered with London Summit posterphenalia. Incidentally, does the logo image remind anyone else of the Obama campaign? I can’t put my finger on what it is, but it has a certain – look. Or I’m imagining things.

Anyway, where was I? Oh, right – where am I: A dauntingly enormous exhibition hall that feels more like an airplane hanger in the middle of what I’m assured is, as far as Londoners are concerned, the nowhere of Canary Wharf. This is the G20 media centre, and it looks – actually, pretty much like any media centre, with the tidy rows of workstations quickly filling up with slightly less tidy rows of journalists. This is the “written media” zone – I can see our electronic cousins just beyond the riser devoted to Standup Alley. I’m not sure where the Canadian contingent is, exactly, which gives me something to do later today.

8:41:03 AM

Also to do later today – sooner rather than later – find out from where those utterly delicious-smelling pastries are coming. Or whence. From whence do yonder croissants hail?

9:04:00 AM

Okay, now this is just brilliant (am I starting to sound like a British schoolgirl yet?): a protest ferry! More precisely, a ferry to, well, ferry journalists to the one vantage point where protesters may at some point be visible.

9:25:26 AM

The G20Voice blogger contingent has just had its first actual confrontation with the dreaded mainstream/conventional/legacy/dinosaur/pick your pejorative media in the form of a Russian journalist who attempted -unsuccessfully – to seize territory, in the form of one of our workstations. Despite a carefully placed sign that marked it clearly as the property of G20Voice, he apparently arrived early enough to surreptitiously affix a a sign – scrawled in ballpoint pen reading “Kremlin Pull”, and no, I have *no* idea what that means either – and then showed up, laptop in tow, and attempted to set up shop.

Well, that just wasn’t on as far as our organizer was concerned, which resulted in a somewhat testy free and frank exchange of views – punctuated by even more testy asides in Russian with his cohort – before he grumpily packed up and wandered off to find somewhere else to work.

9:40:27 AM

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for: the Dimitri Tie Report (special UK edition)! Not only is it an entirely acceptable Conservative blue, but whether through intent or serendipity, he also matches the G20 delegate lanyard, which is *also* a muted blue. What colours are the various UK parties, anyway?

10:19:47 AM

Another neither-fish-nor-fowl blogging journalist heard from: Paul Waugh from the Evening Standard, who is actually twittering, mostly, at least for the moment, but I figure y’all would enjoy the British perspective.

I also just ran into fellow Canadian David Llungren – Reuters – who muttered something about jetlag before hustling off to somewhere else, presumably more interesting than the Hall of All Media. Journalists being journalists and all, there is a good amount of crossoutlet — and crosscountry — gossip going on; it’s like that old saying: the roof is an introduction, so all of us ExCel inmates are already practically old friends.

I’m trying to figure out the lanyard colour coding: blue for delegations, red for organizers, yellow for media, of course; they must have their little jokes. I wonder if there are any other flavours of G20 enthusiast here.

10:28:56 AM

Hey everyone, it’s — Bob Geldof! Seriously. He just wandered into our aisle — presumably by invitation — and is chatting with fellow Voicer He’s wearing tweed and posing obligingly for photos; presumably, he’s doing the rounds. Wait, he’s a Sir now, isn’t he? Sorry about the title-dropping, Sir Bob. Anyway, we were being mostly ignored by the rest of the media encampments til now, but suddenly, there’s a goodsized scrum going on right by our little benchhead. I can’t actually hear much of what he’s saying, because his voice is very low and there are very bad journalists who have not put their phones on vibrate.

Oh, there we go, I’ve wriggled in more closely, and I can report that his main message to the /20 is that the system is “assymetric”; it is “ridiculous” to dismiss the 50% of the population that subsists on less than $2 a day. The answer is to pull in the markets – and, he notes, “this isn’t Bob Geldof” saying this — well, he is but you know what he, and I mean — this is the growing consensus of experts. I’m completely lost in the scrumcrush at the moment, and – oh, there he goes.

Actually, I was wrong — he just took his scrum for a walkabout to the end of the aisle, gathering more media as he went, and is now drifting back towards our table, mostly because he ran out of pacing room in the other direction, I think. He’s definitely the early hit of the conference, at least as far as delegate drop-ins. But I bet a visit from that Canadian Prime Minister who has such high praise for his country’s banking system — honestly, is the rest of the world pretty much ready to tell us to shut up already at this point? I would be — anyway, he’d probably cause a stampede. C’mon, PMO – what about being the frst G20 leader to venture into the media centre.

Geldof Update: He’s now directly behind my desk, as is the still expanding mass of media, which has nearly run him to ground simply by virtue of making it impossible to keep moving.

11:07:39 AM

First official whine – and no, it doesn’t have anything to do with the *Canadian* delegation, although apparently our PM missed the photo op at the conference ins. I told you that his habitual lateness would come back to haunt him. Anyway, my whine is thus: the only way that press briefings are announced is via chryon at the bottom of the closed circuit plasma TVs that are scattered around the media centre. Does that sound really efficient? Well, it isn’t, because it requires us to remember to check the screen every now and then, which – well, we do, but not constantly. Would it be that hard to go old school and send out someone with stacks of notices to drop at the end of each row? Or, failing that, to announce them over the loudspeaker?

Also, I should note that the G20Voice contingent is turning into a mini-roadside attraction, as far as the wandering waiting press. It’s like a blogger petting zoo. Anyway, if you see a small blonde shape hunched over her berry in the corner of the establishing footage tonight, now you know why.

11:57:31 AM

And now, the moment that ITQ, at least, has been waiting for – our voyage to the lunch buffet. Which, from what I understand, isn’t actually a buffet, but a line to pick up packed lunches – it really is like camp! There were strict orders given to delegations that only one sandwich per person is allowed, which makes me think I should head over early in case there is last minute outbreak of rationing.

12:04:51 PM

Okay, so I ended up with a Greek-style salad wrap – Yum! – and a Time Out, which I very much hope is a chocolate bar. I’m not opening it until I’m done with the wrap, so it will be a surprise. I’ve also met Richard Darlington, an almost frighteningly keen political staffer with Douglas Alexander, the secretary of state for international development, who is hanging out with Team G20Voice today. His boss – the aforementioned secstate – actually briefed the bloggerses earlier. Your move, Bev Oda!

I’ve also been visiting the Canadian media delegation, which is small – as expected, really – but mighty of spirit.

12:29:27 PM

Ooh, it *is* chocolate – finger-y, even, and wafery with a delicious flakey infill. Yummy. I wonder what the official delegations are eating.

We’re definitely in a bit of a lull here at the moment – it’s lunchtime, after all. I’m a bit confused by the schedule for briefings – I mean, aside from the inconvenient method of alerting us to changes and additions – because it looks like Russia, for instance, will be holding a two hour presser before the conference even comes to a close. Which will apparently be at around 3:30, because that’s when Gordon Brown has *his* briefing, and presumably as host, he gets to go first. The PM – our PM, that is – is supposed to be up at 5pm – so expect him around 6ish (just kidding, PMO).

The one that everyone is waiting for, of course, is at 5:45pm. I’ve no idea how they’re going to run it, as far as letting reporters into the room – first come, first serve would seem to be a recipe for stampeding disaster, so maybe it’s being worked out by the US delegation.

Oh, and according to Canadian Press, the whole group-photo-missing debacle was due to Harper’s eternal diligence, and not his habitual tardiness: he was “getting briefed by his officials on revisions to the draft G20 communique” and was back in the huddle “moments” after the photo was taken. I’m totally using that excuse next time I show up a few minutes late for a committee meeting.

1:19:07 PM

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: Contrary to certain reports emanating from the mischievous British press, the PM was *not* in the washroom during what ITQ will henceforth refer to, in a purely ironic sense, as “Group-Photo-MissingGate”.

Also, did I mention that there is an outside world? It’s right through the doors at the back of the media hangar, which lead to the wharf, and it is sunny and warm and perfectly lovely, and honestly, I’m tempted to spend the rest of the afternoon there. Especially since you can watch journalists grudgingly board the protest ferry to head off on what is basically an international summit version of a whale-watching tour. Chances are that they’ll be out there for forty minutes and they won’t see a thing, but you have to take the chance so you won’t beat yourself up about it – or, more likely, be beaten by your editor – if by chance the riot to end all riots does materialize.

ANOTHER EVEN MORE EXCITING UPDATE! Pictures – real ones, not even berrycam blurs – uploading as we speak. Check back soon for full colour!

Oops – cancel that update: I brought the wrong-sized cable, so the photos will have to wait til later today — that is, unless I can find someone here with the right wiring. I’ll keep you posted.

Wow, that was a huge ordeal — but the promised pics are finally up – check ’em out here. I’ll try to add a few more later, but this should tide y’all over in the meantime.

3:25:24 PM
And suddenly, it’s frantic — the meeting is wrapping up, right on schedule, which means the craze of briefings is about to begin, starting with Gordon Brown, which – thanks to an unfortunate bout of lateness, I believe I’m going to have to liveblog from the overflow room. Notice, if you will, my restraint in not making a joke about certain G20 leaders and their relative timeliness vis a vis official photo ops. Ahem.

3:30:56 PM
Oh, as it turns out, there is plenty of room in the briefing room – which is *huge*; exactly the same size, in fact, as the media centre, since it’s in the neighbouring hangar (and apologies for that misspelling earlier; I do know the difference, it’s just been one of those days).

There are, I can report, a few Voicers in the front row – a good contingent of them, even – but I’m not sure whether he’ll be fielding questions, or working off a previously agreed upon list. ITQ, meanwhile, is sitting on the media riser, which puts her as close to the stage as you can get without being taken out by baton-wielding security guards, or so I assume. I’m not going to test that theory.

I’m wondering now if our PM is going to be in this briefing room, or perhaps one not quite as capacious. Unless he really wants to field questions from the British press about his washroom habits, he may want to ensure that it will be mostly Canadians in attendance. Better the devils you know, after all.

3:42:05 PM
Well, this is annoying. Not only is he now officially late – not quite Harper Standard Time, but still – I suspect that courtesy towards the host country means that all the other briefings will have to be bumped back as well so that they’re not competing with him. Also, you know what almost always turns out to be a terrible idea for ensuring message control? Making more than a thousand journalists, many of whom are already sailing past deadline, wait around,  with nothing to do but talk to each other.

3:47:45 PM
Apparently, the meeting — or *a* meeting – is “running late”. That’s according to the reporter pacing behind me on his cell phone, but he sounds British, so presumably he’s in the loop.

3:49:21 PM
Okay, I was right – the plasma screen notice for our PM’s media availability notes that there is “limited space”. I wonder if that’s a new addition to the lisring. Also, the NEPAD delegation has *cancelled* their briefing. Are they too mad to speak, or do they just have nothing to say? If I could remember what NEPAD stands for, I’d probably be able to speculate wildly, but alas.

3:52:25 PM
Hurray! It’s an official! A Gordon Brown-related official of some kind, I gather, who is here to tell us that the briefing will get started in a few minutes. Real Soon Now. Story of my life.

3:55:03 PM
And there he is – starting with something that almost sounded like a joke, but turned into a blandish welcome. This was the day the world came together to fight the economic crisis, he tells us. The fact that he’s willing to be here and take questions makes me suspect he’s going to announce that victory is all but assured, but let’s let him run down his speaking notes.

3:56:30 PM
Six pledges: reform the global banking system – except for Canada, of course, since ours is *perfect* – which will involve bringing “shadow banking” — hedge funds and the link — under the global regulatory system, as well as an end to tax havens that aren’t transparent in providing information.

I’m somewhat distracted, I should confess, by the purposeful scrambling of the cameras on the floor, as photographers perform contortions to ensure the perfect angle without getting into someone else’s frame.

3:59:49 PM
Another pledge: More money for the IMF, which is also being called to monitor progress towards the objective of, you know, defeating the economic crisis, and maybe even dancing on its still warm and twitching corpse.

Also, they’re going to ‘kickstart’ international trade, which can only mean one thing: pack your bags, Minister Day — you’re going to get to be important again! It’s not hanging out with Mounties on drug raids, but it’s better than what has happened to Jim Prentice, after all.

4:02:35 PM
Also, no forgetting about the poor, or developing countries – they’re inviting the IMF to bring forward proposals to use proceeds from the sale of gold to help the helpless.

4:03:39 PM
Climate change! It made it into the text, but only as part of the “and finally” burst of pledges.

Blah blah, biggest crisis evah, most awesomest collective, global, consensual response evah (evah-er, even). Sorry, but I figure this speech has already gone up on every news site on the planet, and I hate recapping prepared text. Which is why it’s especially cool that we’re now going to questions.

4:06:26 PM
First reporter asks about Obama, and what difference his very existence makes; Brown obviously doesn’t want to give Obamania all the credit for the apparent success of the conference, but he stresses the importance of working together. Unity in attacking the recession means people can have more confidence in the future. Hurray for synchronized stimulating!

4:09:03 PM
A question about China’s involvement in the IMF, particularly the new funding push – will it affect their voting rates? To be honest, I’m not sure what the answer is, but it seems to be no, but yes. Or yes, but no.

Can the PM confirm that the $1 trillion stimulus isn’t actually new money – they couldn’t agree, this BBC reporter suggests – but loan guarantees. Brown disputes the notion that there was dissent at the table, but claims that this is, in fact, new money from the EU, Japan and “other countries”.

4:13:53 PM
What is the plan for the *next* G20, another reporter wonders. It sounds like it could happen sooner than expected – maybe even later this year, unless I hallucinated that. People will be surprised at the extent of what the international community is willing to do, Brown suggests.

At this point, by the way, I had to flee in order to make sure I didn’t miss our PM, but I can report that one of the G20Voice bloggers – the guy behind – did, in fact, get to ask a question — the very first time a blogger has done so at an international conference, I think. Take that, mainstream media! Wait a second, that’s me, isn’t it?

UPDATE:  Here’s the link to  my liveblogging of the PM’s post-game show.