Alex Younger, the head of MI6, made his second public appearance after four years in the job, on Monday. He spoke to students at St Andrews. Presumably because of his young audience, and because he was promoting officialdom’s orthodoxy that ‘diversity’ in recruitment trumps everything else, Mr Younger did not wear a tie. This was a mistake for two reasons. The first is that able young people will wish to join MI6 not because it offers a comfy, reassuring version of their existing easy-going lives, but because it doesn’t. The idea of challenge is what attracts, and of exclusivity not inclusivity. It is, after all, called the Secret Intelligence Service. It ought to be tight-lipped, formal and (for men) tie-wearing. The second reason is that Mr Younger will need a much deeper disguise than removing his tie to prove that he is not part of the usual white, male, public-school elite which has always run the service — and, usually but not always, run it well. He went to Marlborough and St Andrews (facts which, with the discretion of his trade, he conceals in his Who’s Who entry). He is a scion of the Scottish ‘beerage’ and a cousin of Mrs Thatcher’s popular defence secretary, George.
This is an extract from Charles Moore’s Spectator Notes, which appears in this week’s magazine.