Leading Article: I spy a man without a face

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The Independent Online
THE NEW head of MI6 was named last week. He is David Rolland Spedding, CVO, OBE. He refuses to have his photograph taken - at least that is how some newspapers have put it, though that cannot be quite right because, being a family man, he must have had his photograph taken dozens of times, at barbecues and on the beach, smiling, laughing, drinking, grimacing, hugging. Of course, in the expectation that he would one day head MI6, he might have taken the precaution of wearing a paper bag at all social occasions, but this is unlikely. People do not like to remember their loved ones as nothing but dressed limbs and torso. ('Look, this is Daddy's suit at Betty's wedding in 1975.') Faces are what count. The reasons for denying us a glimpse of his are contained in the words of his predecessor, Sir Colin McColl: 'Secrecy is our stock in trade, our most precious asset. We are not going to allow ourselves to be undressed in public.'

That seems reasonable, particularly if you are a spy with an unflattering body, but Mr Spedding is unlikely to preserve his physical mystery. Already the Sun is inviting its readers to furnish photographs of Mr Spedding, though, with absolute respect to the Sun's readership, they would seem an unlikely source for such material. The new man at MI6 is the son of Lt Col Carlisle Montagu Rodney Spedding; he attended Sherborne public school and Hertford College, Oxford; his career with his ostensible employers, the Foreign Office, progressed through places such as Beirut, Santiago and Amman. We also know that he married a bank manager's daughter, has two sons aged 17 and 23, and lives in Oxfordshire. We even know his golf club - Huntercombe - and his handicap, 20.

We know so much, in fact, that it seems quite likely that MI6 is run by someone else entirely. But please do not write in with suggestions - or Polaroids taken at that rather lubricious evening in the Black Kat Klub in Cairo.