The head of Britain's MI6 secret service - superspy James Bond's boss - is expected to be a woman for the first time in real life in the agency's 109-year history.
The head of Britain’s MI6 secret service – superspy James Bond’s boss – is expected to be a woman for the first time in real life in the agency’s 109-year history. The top job, depicted as ‘M’ in the Bond films where she was portrayed by actress Judi Dench, is likely to go to a female frontrunner as part of the succession planning process at the UK’s foreign intelligence agency, ‘The Sunday Times’ reported. The woman, who cannot be named for security reasons, has run agent networks around the world and has proved her “strong operational capabilities” on overseas postings over many years, according to people who have worked with her.
The current MI6 chief, Alex Younger, is understood to have himself singled out the female spymaster who was honoured by Queen Elizabeth II for her work on foreign policy. She is now considered by Britain’s intelligence community as the “frontrunner” to succeed Younger, whose five-year term as chief will end in November 2019. While the UK’s domestic intelligence agency – MI5 – has been led by two women — Stella Rimington and Eliza Manningham-Buller — and women are also now in charge of Scotland Yard and the National Crime Agency, MI6 has never yet had a woman at its helm.
“If the competition for the job was to be run tomorrow, she would win,” an intelligence source told the newspaper. Another source added, “She’s one of the most qualified and capable women MI6 has had. You usually have around three people on the succession list. She’s highly credible and experienced and if Alex was suddenly to fall under a proverbial bus, she would get the job”. She would follow 16 male chiefs since the agency was created in July 1909.
MI6 chiefs are formally selected by the UK’s foreign secretary and must be approved by the prime minister. While the Bond films depict them as M, in real life they are known as C. Younger had earlier disclosed that MI6’s real-life “Q” — the tech geek who creates fancy gadgets for 007 and has been played by male actors in the Bond film franchise — is in fact a woman.