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More Interesting than Learning how to Make Brandy Snaps

Bernard Porter: Stella Rimington, 18 October 2001

Open Secret: The Autobiography of the Former Director-General of MI5 
by Stella Rimington.
Hutchinson, 296 pp., £18.99, September 2001, 0 09 179360 2
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... pleased to call closed.’ Peter Wright’s Spycatcher (1987) got the same kind of treatment; even Stella Rimington rubbishes it. Nobody loved him, whether they accepted his charges – a Russian mole in MI5, the ‘Wilson plot’ – or not. This is understandable. Ministers (like Churchill) resent the betrayal of trust; outsiders are bound to be ...

Short Cuts

Conor Gearty: Intercept evidence and terrorism trials, 17 March 2005

... the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights, the pressure group Liberty all agree – even Stella Rimington, the former head of MI5, has reportedly condemned the restriction as ‘ridiculous’. Practically every other country that has considered the issue has decided to make the material available in court if needed; nowhere is there any question ...

Who Runs Britain?

Christopher Hitchens, 8 December 1994

The Enemy Within: MI5, Maxwell and the Scargill Affair 
by Seumas Milne.
Verso, 352 pp., £18.95, November 1994, 0 86091 461 5
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... Roger Windsor’s has been ‘linked’, to use the coy formulation of Fleet Street, is that of Stella Rimington. Now resold to us all as the user-friendly face of a newly-feminised secret police, Ms Rimington’s career at MI5 has in fact been rather more hatchet-visaged than her handlers pretend. The MI5 defector ...

Other People’s Mail

Bernard Porter: MI5, 19 November 2009

The Defence of the Realm: The Authorised History of MI5 
by Christopher Andrew.
Allen Lane, 1032 pp., £30, October 2009, 978 0 7139 9885 6
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... only as long as the Empire did. The last director general with even post-colonial experience was Stella Rimington, who was talent-spotted in (independent) India, where her husband worked at the British High Commission. When this source dried up it caused recruitment problems. While it still operated, however, its bearing on the values of the service is ...

Maggie’s Hobby

Nicholas Hiley, 11 December 1997

New cloak, Old dagger: How Britain’s Spies Came in from the Cold 
by Michael Smith.
Gollancz, 338 pp., £20, November 1996, 0 575 06150 2
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Intelligence Power in Peace and War 
by Michael Herman.
Cambridge, 436 pp., £50, October 1996, 0 521 56231 7
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UK Eyes Alpha 
by Mark Urban.
Faber, 320 pp., £16.99, September 1996, 0 571 17689 5
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... known generally as MI5, continued to expand even after the end of the Cold War, and by 1992, when Stella Rimington took over, it had more than 2300 staff. The volume of material circulated by GCHQ, the signals intelligence agency, and by SIS, the overseas intelligence service, also ensures them a significant place in government. In 1995, John Major ...


Alan Bennett: Bennett’s Dissection, 1 January 2009

... Chronicle included in the same sentence. 8 November. Listen to The Archive Hour on Radio 4, with Stella Rimington the ex-head of MI5 taking us through the material the BBC holds on the Cambridge spies, particularly the so-called fifth (or is it sixth) man, John Cairncross. It’s all pretty factual, with ...

Quiet Sinners

Bernard Porter: Imperial Spooks, 21 March 2013

Empire of Secrets: British Intelligence, the Cold War and the Twilight of Empire 
by Calder Walton.
Harper, 411 pp., £25, February 2013, 978 0 00 745796 0
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... get American support. This is not what you might have expected from the reactionary buffers that Stella Rimington, the future MI5 director-general, depicts in her memoirs as working there (mostly lunching and drinking) when she joined the agency in the 1970s. Perhaps they really were masters of disguise. Or, more likely, they were just saying what the ...

Working under Covers

Paul Laity: Mata Hari, 8 January 2004

Female Intelligence: Women and Espionage in the First World War 
by Tammy Proctor.
New York, 205 pp., $27, June 2003, 0 8147 6693 5
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... one, the history of female espionage – from Aphra Behn to Elizabeth Van Lew to Lotus Blossom to Stella Rimington – is slowly being filled out. Proctor believes, however, that female intelligence work is even now generally regarded as ‘exceptional, rare and surprising’ – in popular representations of espionage, the stereotypes have never gone ...

Secrets are like sex

Neal Ascherson, 2 April 2020

The State of Secrecy: Spies and the Media in Britain 
by Richard Norton-Taylor.
I.B. Tauris, 352 pp., £20, March 2019, 978 1 78831 218 9
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... brought him respect where it mattered. Norton-Taylor was on good, if always guarded, terms with Stella Rimington and Eliza Manningham-Buller, two heads of MI5 who believed that the agency badly needed to be more open with the public. Manningham-Buller, an ‘extrovert’, he says, ‘was a prime example of how an individual could influence my ...

Making It

Melissa Benn: New Feminism?, 5 February 1998

Different for Girls: How Culture Creates Women 
by Joan Smith.
Chatto, 176 pp., £10.99, September 1997, 9780701165123
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The New Feminism 
by Natasha Walter.
Little, Brown, 278 pp., £17.50, January 1998, 0 316 88234 8
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A Century of Women: The History of Women in Britain and the United States 
by Sheila Rowbotham.
Penguin, 752 pp., £20, June 1997, 0 670 87420 5
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... rather than ‘stuck in a ghetto’. Like Wolf, Walter sees such figures as Thatcher and MI5’s Stella Rimington as largely positive role models because of what they do for women’s perception of achievement, ‘their normalisation of success’: what they do once success has come is neither here nor there. Thatcher, Walter boldly claims, allowed ...

Finding an Enemy

Conor Gearty: Sixty Years of Anti-Terrorist Legislation, 15 April 1999

Legislation against Terrorism: A Consultation Paper. CM 4178. 
by Home Office and Northern Ireland Office.
70 pp., £9.95, December 1998, 0 10 141782 9
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... against this fresh brand of terrorism. In her Dimbleby Lecture in 1993, the then Director-General, Stella Rimington, described terrorism as the Service’s ‘overwhelming focus today’ and boasted of the ‘more than twenty Irish Republican terrorists’ who had ‘been arrested in Great Britain and charged’. Later, she said that ‘some 700 ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: Spook Fiction, 3 August 2006

... Liz Carlyle, Stella Rimington’s fictional MI5 officer, is a bit of a puzzle to fans of sleuthing, spookery and old-fashioned cloak and dagger. The trouble, to begin with anyhow, is that in Secret Asset, ‘the second Liz Carlyle novel’ (Hutchinson, £12.99), inference and deduction are decidedly lowbrow skills ...

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