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Unfounded media speculation about the retirement of Dame Eliza Mannigham-Buller as Director General of the Security Service MI5

This last week has seen several news stories, the timing of which have been entirely under the control of the Labour Government's spin doctors and media manipulators. The suspicion must be, that with the front pages of the newspapers and the TV news ghoulishly obsessed with the serial murders near Ipswich, that "bad news" is hidden before the Christmas Parliamentary recess. This does appear to be true, with the Police questioning of Prime Minister Tony Blair over the "Labour loans for peerages" scandal, the dropping of the corruption enquiry into BAE systems and the Saudi Arabian regime, the Operation Paget report into the death of Princess Diana etc. One story, although the timing of which is suspect, has attracted peculiar commentary from the mainstream media, namely the announcement of the resignation of Dame Eliza Mannigham-Buller, as Director General of the Security Service MI5.

There seems to be lots of unfounded media speculation, from across the newspaper political spectrum e.g.

This seems like lazy journalism to us.

Dame Eliza is not retiring until April next year, i.e. 4 and half years after taking up the role of Director General, which she started in October 2002. She will then have served 33 years in the Security Service, and will have spent 10 years at the top of MI5, as Deputy and then as Director General. She will be 59 years old in July 2007.

Why is this length of time as Director General considered to be significant ? According to the historical list of previous Directors General on the official MI5 Security Service website, this is neither an unusual amount of time to have held this post, nor an unusual age at which to retire - see our table below (birth and death dates from Wikipedia):

Number of years served as head of MI5Age at retirement Period servedNameBirth / Death
 6 591903 - 1909 (Secret Service Bureau)Sir William Melville(b. 1850 - d. 1918)
 31 671909 - 1940Vernon Kell (from 1919, Sir Vernon Kell)(b. 1873 - d. 1942)
 6 671940 - 1946Sir David Petrie(b. 1879 - d. 1961)
 7 651946 - 1953Sir Percy Sillitoe(b. 1888 - d. 1962)
 3 501953 - 1956Dick White (from 1955, Sir Dick White)(b. 1906 - d. 1993)
 9 601956 - 1965Roger Hollis (from 1960, Sir Roger Hollis)(b. 1905 - d. 1973)
 7 601965 - 1972Martin Furnival Jones (from 1967, Sir Martin Furnival Jones)(b. 1912 - d. 1997)
 7 611972 - 1979Michael Hanley (from 1974, Sir Michael Hanley)(b. 1918 - d. 2001)
 3 621979 - 1981Sir Howard Smith(b. 1919 - d. 1996)
 4 621981 - 1985Sir John Jones(b. 1923 - d. 1998)
 2 641985 - 1987Sir Anthony Duff(b. 1920 - d. 2000)
 5 601987 - 1992Patrick Walker(from 1990, Sir Patrick Walker)(b. 1932)
 4 611992 - 1996Stella Rimington (from 1996, Dame Stella Rimington)(b. 1935)
 6 551996 - 2002Stephen Lander (from 2000, Sir Stephen Lander)(b. 1947)
  4 years 6 months 582002 - 2007Honourable Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller(b. 1948)

There is no evidence that her retirement is due to the supposedly impending "full details" about the July 2005 terrorist attacks - who really believes that all the known facts will actually be revealed to the public ?

This does not seem any more likely to have influenced her decision, than the recent murder of Alexander Litvinenko , involving radioactive Polonium-210, former and current Russian espionage agents etc. which is also a plot which MI5 failed to detect and prevent.

Nobody should underestimate the difficulties of the job: having to deal with odious NuLabour politicians, the other secret intelligence agency rivals for budgets, skilled manpower and political influence, the bureaucratic culture of secrecy and incompetence, and the occasional terrorist plot or foreign spy scandal.

How well has Dame Eliza done at the job of Director General of the Security Service MI5 ?

Has she been a champion of our civil liberties and freedoms, working behind the scenes, or is she one of the main apparatchiki who have been pushing the United Kingdom down the slippery slope towards a surveillance police state ?

We do not really know, because of the culture of unnecessary secrecy.

We assume that the announcement of her retirement, which was apparently decided upon back in 2005, is to allow an orderly transition, to whoever is selected from the very small pool of possible candidates as her replacement.

It will also allow the usual corporate interests to sound her out about accepting possible directorships.

Feel free to use the comments or email, to speculate on either who her replacement might be, or on the corporate directorships which may come her way.


The Times is describing Jonathan Evans as "a racing certainty" to take over.

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