The official historian of MI5, Christopher Andrew, who spent several years as a member of the service while he undertook the research for his book The Defence of the Realm, suggested a solution to the banking crisis: moving all the people who work in GCHQ to the banks. His point was that the British intelligence services have never much minded employing people who disagree with the orthodox view, nor, more importantly, genuine eccentrics, rather than the management-speak-tamed clones running the banks. He recalled codebreaker Alan Turing’s many oddnesses: wearing his gas mask at his job interview because he believed it would diminish the probability of catching a cold; chaining his coffee mug to his radio (“very sensible, but not something to mark you out as a team player”); converting his life savings into silver ingots, burying them in the grounds of Bletchley Park, but then being unable to find them after the war.

He also claimed that the human resources consultants employed to discover the levels of job satisfaction at the British domestic intelligence service had found that there was “only one organisation they had investigated that had higher morale: the publisher Mills & Boon”. Perhaps this is partly down to the fact that the spies stage an annual satirical revue with, he recalled, a sketch including a skit on Pirates of the Caribbean. Well, that’s certainly a plotline they’ve not explored in Spooks. Perhaps just as well: the real version didn’t sound especially funny. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds