MI5 launches drive to recruit ethnic minorities

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Having survived the shock of a woman in charge, MI5 is now feeling confident enough to dip its toe back into the quagmire of political correctness with a drive to recruit from ethnic minorities.

Having survived the shock of a woman in charge, MI5 is now feeling confident enough to dip its toe back into the quagmire of political correctness with a drive to recruit from ethnic minorities.

Never ones to fall too many decades behind the rest of the country, the old school spies have realised that they need to boost their black and Asian representation.

Under the alluring headline of a "Life Less Ordinary", the security service has been placing job advertisements in publications specifically aimed at Asian or Afro-Caribbean readerships. Notices have been placed in New Nation, Eastern Eye and the Asian Times.

The advert describes the extraordinary challenges that punctuate the mundane day of a 21st-century spy. "Wake up, make toast, get train, brief manager, analyse intelligence, team lunch, disrupt terrorist operation, make calls, go shopping, chat to friends, go to bed," it reads - before emphasising the service's commitment to reflecting the diversity of the society it "works to protect".

The agency is still viewed as white-dominated and is considered to fall well behind other government departments when it comes to boosting racial diversity in the organisation.

A Home Office official said yesterday: "The security services are very consciously and positively trying to increase the proportion of ethnic minority staff.

"The service recruits openly and regularly advertises in the national and specialist and ethnic minority press."

But he insisted that staff posts would still be decided on the basis of merit.

He said: "We have the best personnel policies and procedures in place.

"We are aware of the need to reflect the diversity of society today. Selection of new recruits is based on merit."

The spokesman added that the organisation, whose director general is Stephen Lander, began to take steps to recruit from the ethnic minorities in 1999 and now has an internal equal opportunities forum.

A recruitment drive through newspaper advertisements in 1999 led to 20 men and women being chosen from 16,000 applicants, of whom nine were black or Asian.

Dame Stella Rimington, the first female head of the security service, was chief of MI5 from 1992 to 1996. She is reported to have been offered a £500,000 advance for her book, A Life of Surprises, by the publisher Random House.

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