Exclusive: the spy who came in with the shopping tells all

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The Independent Online
NOW that Stella Rimington, the head of MI5, has allowed people to know what she looks like, there is a feeling that MI5 is acting with a new openness. Some whining critics have suggested that she might have behaved with even more openness if she had also opened her mouth and let us know what she sounded like. This sort of carping criticism will have to cease after the publication today of this exclusive interview.

Independent: Mrs Rimington, it is claimed by insiders that MI5 is an old-fashioned and out-of-date name for a counter-espionage outfit. Is MI5 in fact the true name of it, or do you use some other code name ?

Rimington: No comment.

Independent: I mean, when you go to work in the morning, do you say to your family, 'I am off to MI5'? Or do you say, 'I'm off to the place where I work?' Or do you just say, 'I am going shopping again all day today, like every day?'

Rimington: No comment.

Independent: Is that perhaps why that old photograph of you was so out of focus? Because you didn't want your family to know you were head of MI5?

Rimington: No comment.

Independent: To put it another way, when you are with your colleages, how do you refer to it? Do you say 'The Firm'? Or 'HQ'? When you are out to lunch with some of the lads, what do you say after dessert? 'Let's get back to base'? Or just 'Back to the old dump'? Of course, we now know that most of your employees are women, so you wouldn't be out to lunch with the lads so much as having a bit of a time with the girls]

Rimington: No comment.

Independent: I'm sorry - do you find the expression 'girls' offensive?

Rimington: No comment.

Independent: Fine. Now, I wonder if you have anything to say about the public perception of MI5. You have been shrouded in secrecy for so long that most of us have given up hope of ever learning anything about the outfit. But at least we were able to say to ourselves, 'Well, we may know nothing about the goings-on of MI5 but at least the Russian intelligence service is keeping tabs on it - indeed some of MI5's personnel may have been supplied by Moscow.' But now that the KGB is crippled by the end of the Cold War, our one reliable check has gone. Is that, in fact, why you are moving out of the shadows?

Rimington: No comment.

Independent: Do you feel a bit, well, lonely, at knowing that Eastern Europe is no longer interested in you? Of course, there are always the Americans, who never trust any of their allies, and always keep an eye on them. After all, the British services have always had to do a lot of the work for the Americans, haven't they?

Rimington: No comment.

Independent: Thank you. Of course, we have been trained for so long not to ask questions about MI5 that we may now have lost all interest. And people may be saying: 'Well, it's a bit late in the day to be open about MI5, darling, when MI5 has nothing to do any more except bug the Royal Family and try to stop the IRA blowing people up. Neither of which it seems to be any good at.'

Rimington: No comment.

Independent: Fair enough. Incidentally, we couldn't help noticing in the new photograph that you have a huge ring on the fourth finger of your left hand, which you are holding up to the camera. Is this an instinctive move to hide your face, as per training? Or is it some sort of signal to your masters in Moscow?

Rimington: No comment.

Independent: I am sorry. You're quite right. I promised not to ask about them. In fact, as we all know, that huge ring is a tiny two-way radio set, a small tape recorder and a disguised camera, is it not?

Rimington: No comment.

Independent: OK. OK. One last question on the serious side. MI5 has always supposedly excelled in deception and clandestine operations. In other words, lying. So why should we trust anything that MI5 has to say to us? Why should I even assume that you are who you say you are?

Rimington: No comment.

Independent: Incidentally, I like the haircut. Is that in-house? Or can we tell our readers where they can go to get the same?

Rimington: No comment.

Independent: Now, moving on to dress sense and home decor . . .

Part two of this major interview will appear tomorrow, unless some mysterious accident happens to me first.

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