Russian Roulette, by Giles Milton – review

Had Onan not spilled his seed upon the ground, he might have invented invisible ink. The possibility had not occurred to me until I read this account of the start of Britain’s intelligence services. Even then the implications seemed so startling as to be barely credible — that the entire trade in espionage, including the serried ranks of Cheltenham’s GCHQ, the massed battalions at Fort Meade’s National Security Agency, the MI5s, 6s and other shadowy digits, not to mention literature’s denizens, from Ashenden and Greenmantle to James Bond and George Smiley, owed its origin to solitary sex. Yet the source given on page 48 of Russian Roulette appears impeccable. Describing

Thatcher didn’t really save Britain. She allowed Britain to save itself.

Thatchermania has died down now, and I’ve personally stayed out of it. The quality of commentary from people around at the time has been outstanding, not least  The Spectator’s own Charles Moore. The Thatcher drama is one where I can’t even claim to have been a spectator. I was not into politics when I was young, not listening to Budget speeches on the school bus like the young George Osborne. Strife didn’t hit us much in the Highlands. I once crossed a picket line with my mum when teachers at my school, Nairn Academy, went on strike. She was a special needs teacher there and didn’t talk much about it,