As a child of the Cold War, I grew up believing espionage had a dark glamour. It was a world of women with frankly infeasible bosoms barely contained within the plunging neckline of floor-sweeping frocks who smouldered away over the roulette table, whilst chisel-jawed men in dinner suits lit fags with cigarette lighters that could double as tiny cameras.
Spies did desperate battle to keep the free world (that’s us, for younger viewers out there) from the dangers of communism, which as everyone knew, was hellbent on wrecking the capitalist west by destroying our economy.
According to the movies, there were also random cat-loving baddies who lived underground, and had a novel manner of dealing with those troublesome employees who failed to meet this month’s sales targets, by sending them hurtling through the floor into a tank full of sharks.
Now the mouldering Soviet files are bursting open with their old secrets, and what do we find? Well, a receipt, to be exact. Who knew that spies were required to provide receipts? What happened if you came back from your dangerous mission missing your Rolex, dinner suit and Aston Martin? Did Miss Moneypenny make you go back and get one of Goldfinger’s underlings to sign for it?
A Tory MP, a Mr Mawby, long dead, has been exposed as a spy, for the Czechs as it happened, who thoughtfully filed the receipt. It’s nice to know that even as they plotted to bring down capitalism, they maintained good administrative discipline.
They were paying him for information. Nuclear secrets, perhaps, or the details of some particularly delicate negotiations between the White House and Number 10? No, it was the floor plan of the prime minister’s office and the House of Commons, and a bit of gossip about a couple of MPs, which makes the Czech secret service sound like a cross between DIY SOS and Heat magazine.
Chips are down for scourges of capitalism
LET’S hear it for Barclays bank – it kicked the NatWest/RBS computer foul-up right off the front page.
Ye gods. Capitalism was supposed to be under threat from the Red Army, the KGB and assorted sinister men in Nehru jackets, not turbo-charged Captain Mainwarings on a single-minded mission to line their massive pockets and some “fat-fingered” techno geek who crashed an entire banking system presumably by dropping the remains of a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder on the keyboard.
Not even Q could come up with a gadget that could foil this plot.
Someone forgot to tell Sean he’s a secret agent
WE slept safe in the 60s, secure in the knowledge that we had Bond, lurking by Checkpoint Charlie on a bitter East German night, ever vigilant. Mind you, I was under the impression that spies should be near invisible, blending into the background, hard to spot, that sort of thing.
At the height of the Cold War, Bond, James Bond, was Connery, Sean Connery, a man who could no more blend into the room than George Osbourne could seamlessly enter the Port O’ Leith bar.
All the KGB had to do was brief the guys to look out for a big bloke, women swooning round him, nice duds, and an accent you could cut with a knife.
Being economical with the truth
THE Soviets never did manage to wreck the capitalist system. No bunker-bound villain succeeded in bankrupting the West. And now they don’t have to. The bankers did it for them.
And all the bankers did was fib. But on what a scale! Not even your subterranean villain could have come up with something so simple. They were always rather keen plans that involved huge rockets that ate other rockets and buying all the diamonds in the world to build a laser that could melt Philadelphia.
All they had to do was lie about how much they were paying for their loans. Now, you’re not allowed to do this, of course. We’re not bankers, so don’t you go doing something crazy like go to ask your bank for a loan and fib about how much your mortgage is costing you, to make yourself look more solvent than you actually are. Jings no, we’d be spotted quicker than Sean Connery disguised as a Japanese man.
Barclay’s bank people just told lies, and the man in charge, Mr Diamond (c’mon. There’s a name for a supervillan! Right up there with Goldfinger) says this is very naughty, and falls “well short of standards”.
Oh, don’t be so hard on the boys and girls, Mr Diamond. After all, when you faced the Treasury Select Committee you actually said “We are very proud that we managed through this period, profitably . . . and with the interests of our clients.”
Why, you see, you were lying, you naughty boy. So, I rather think your guys and gals were living up to your good example.
Do I hear the creak of a shark tank trap door?