007 returns, shaken not stirred, updated but still the cool under pressure, man of action leading a life style normally associated with the rich and famous, living it up in top hotels and exotic locations way beyond his pay grade as a civil servant. It’s fun which is probably why Bond doesn’t complain that after 50 years in post he has still not been promoted! Mind you his record of destroying expensive high tech equipment, misuse of his expenses plus his tendency to disobey direct orders wouldn’t have helped his career as a civil servant. What type of an organisation employs some one like Bond ?
Much as I like the Bond films they don’t tell us much about being a spy or working for an organisation like MI5. I have never worked for the secret service but I have worked in an office which was part of a large organisation and what I have noticed is that the larger an organisation gets , the more dysfunctional it becomes. That last sentence is not my own but a quote from an interview with Mike Herron author of a series of spy novels set in a very believable section of MI5.
What Herron has achieved is to write about what it is like to work in a buck-passing bureaucracy, a blame culture where mistakes are punished by banishing individuals from HQ and given mind numbing work overseen by an obnoxious unreasonable manager. In this way the organisation hopes individuals will voluntarily leave saving the organisation the trouble and expense of finding a legitimate reason to dismiss them. The people who work in this neglected and isolated outpost ( Slough House) have all been made scapegoats by their former bosses. They are a dysfunctional team of misfits who don’t like each other and who squabble in the kitchen over whose dirty dishes are in the sink and missing milk from the fridge. Either in response to their career wrecking mistake or a contributing factor to it, individuals are either recovering alcoholics, occasion cocaine users with anger management issues or simply socially inept, lonely individuals. But they are all very good at their job and frustrated that they are being denied the opportunity to use their skills.
Every so often some one high up in the organisation comes up with an unauthorised scheme designed to advance their career or damage some one else’s and they use the Slow Horses from Slough House in the belief that if it goes wrong it won’t come back to them but be seen as another f*** up by the incompetents at Slough House. But as is sometimes the case when a team think the organisation is about to s*** on them again they pull together under the skilful leadership of their manager and show themselves to be very capable.
The MI5 of Slough House’s and its Slow Horses is very different to that of James Bond but the portrayal of a large dysfunctional organisation is one many will recognise.