Licence to fill: MI6 brings in headhunters to hire new Q

Licence to fill: MI6 brings in headhunters to hire new Q
Text settings

MI6 is on the hunt for a new Q and in the spirit of 21st century recruitment, Britain's secret service has turned to the one truly indestructible force of modern life: corporate headhunters. Consultants Saxton Bampfylde – dubbed the Fortnum and Mason of labour exchanges – have been brought in to lead the search for Director General Q, one of the deputies to the Chief of MI6 Richard Moore known as 'C.' 

Moore told Times Radio on Sunday the new role is inspired by the gadget specialist portrayed in the James Bond films, famously played by Desmond Llewelyn:

In this one life imitates art. We were reshaping it a few years ago and we couldn’t think of the right name for it and in the end we thought ‘Well, come on, let’s go for it, and so we decided to call it Q.'

Moore added that he is hoping to recruit someone from an industry background, continuing: 

We are in an increasingly contested, difficult world where technology is making what we do for a living more of a challenge. We have to therefore use and harness technology. The only way we can do that, I think, is with good leadership and somebody who can help us partner with the private sector effectively.

An advert for the role has now been posted online which begins simply: 'MI6 is the UK’s Foreign Intelligence service. We work secretly to gather intelligence from people and organisations.' Far from Ben Whishaw's youthful techie wonderkid portrayal of the fictitious Q, MI6 actually want a 'a senior, entrepreneurial leader' who offers a 'collaborative leadership approach and inclusive management style' with 'skills to engage senior stakeholders' and able to build 'collaborative relationships.' Oh for the days when spooks were handpicked by aloof Cambridge dons...

The successful applicant will 'turn disruptive technologies from threats to our operations into opportunities' running 'teams who create and adopt technologies to enable our mission against the UK’s hardest adversaries.' It assures all would be espionage operatives of MI6's commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion, noting how 'over the next five years we are working to reflect the make-up of the UK’s population in terms of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and disability' while ending with the classic warning that 'in accordance with MI6 standard security practices, you must not discuss your application or intention to apply with anybody except a partner or close family member.'

Steerpike wishes Saxton Bampfylde better luck than the firm has had in some of its past headhunts. The firm ran the BBC director-general recruitment process which brought the ill-fated George Entwistle to the wicket for a mere 54 days before he was forced to resign. They were also criticised by Tory MP Charles Walker for a long-winded process to find a new CBI chief. Some 48 people were interviewed at great expense — only for the job to go to the deputy head of the CBI.

Mr S hopes a similar ad for Miss Moneypenny will be posted online soon too.

Written bySteerpike

Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from Westminster and beyond. Email tips to

Topics in this articleSocietymi6james bond