I Don't Want Our Spies Armed with Jolly Hockey Sticks, Yah! Secret Agent Material? Gemma Arterton in St Trinian's

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Byline: JAN MOIR

THERE are more women spies than ever before, but, obviously, we can't blame them for every British security foul-up in recent years. Or can we?

Everyone knows that girl spies are useless. They always get their kitten heels caught in a drain as they run away from the ticking bomb. Or ruin the operation by sleeping with Roger Moore at an inappropriate moment.

Yet, in the first ever interview given by a serving head of MI5, Jonathan Evans told reporters this week that nearly half (47 per cent) of his officers are female. This is encouraging for any aspiring Mata Haris out there, even if Evans added that his security service 'deliberately targeted women' from Cheltenham Ladies' College and 'other establishments'.

Hang on. Reverse thrust, Miss Moneypenny. This news is actually rather terrifying. As the 'Islamic menace' threat escalates around the world, can it be true that the future security of the UK rests in the hands of a bunch of bluestockings from a [pounds sterling]34,000-a-year public school in Gloucestershire? All set to bash Johnny Terrorist over the head with their jolly hockey sticks?

They are all nice gels, of course, but still gels who quite possibly don't know one end of a shoe bomb from another. Unless it's that rather divine choux bombe pastry they sell in the Regency Arcade cafe in downtown Cheltenham. Delicious with a soya latte! Dead Letter Drop? I love their new CD!

ONCE you absorb the fact that the college's alumni include Kristin Scott Thomas, Nicola Horlick, Mary Archer, Tamara Beckwith and Amanda Wakeley, then the possible security scenario becomes even more troubling.

Certain personal characteristics forged in the classroom begin to emerge. While I don't fancy any terrorist's chances with Lady Archer who quite possibly is a spy the rest of them don't exactly inspire confidence.

MI5 clearly think they're just the ticket, though. Yet they are still sending out peculiar mixed messages about their organisation..

In the new spirit of security service transparency, you can log on to the MI5 website and discover that they are especially keen to recruit wouldbe spies fluent in Somali, Pashto, Dari, Kurdish Central (Kurdi, Sorani), Tamil, Arabic (especially the North African dialects), Urdu, Punjabi, Bengali (with or without Sylheti), Farsi or Persian.

But how many of these polyglots does Jonathan Evans expect to find in the upper quad at Cheltenham? …