Britain’s secret services have been rocked by a shocking new report which claims that even most of their traditional enemies have a better record in promoting gender equality in the work place. “It really is outrageous – until relatively recent times, being homosexual could be used as grounds for dismissal from the intelligence services,” says Professor Roy Corkstone, author of the report. “The excuse being that such so called ‘abnormal’ sexual orientations made them a security risk. Yet, as long ago as 1971, we’ve found evidence of a major international crime syndicate – SPECTRE – employing openly gay men as assassins. Two openly gay men in a relationship, in fact. It is utterly shameful that such an organisation should have been decades ahead of our own intelligence services in their attitudes to LGBT employees!” As the report – commissioned by the Equal Opportunities Commission – points out, nowhere else in the seventies could you find anyone else employing a pair of openly gay men as assassins. Certainly not in Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the CIA or KGB. Yet, by the early seventies, at least, Mr Wint and Mr Kidd appeared to have become SPECTRE’s most trusted killers. “Let’s not forget that the head of this organisation – which was devoted to terror, revenge and extortion – one Ernst Stavro Blofeld was hardly the most liberal of employers,” points out Corkstone. “Employees who failed to meet their targets were regularly stabbed with poisoned blades, electrocuted or fed to killer fish. Yet he was clearly no homophobe, entrusting the security of one of his biggest extortion schemes to Wint and Kidd in Diamonds Are Forever.”

Corkstone’s report has also highlighted SPECTRE’s attitude toward the employment of women, pointing out that, since the sixties, it has employed a string of women in high profile, public facing roles. “We shouldn’t be surprised by its employment of openly gay hit men – it was the logical next step in their employment practices after they had already blazed a trail with their employment of women in prominent positions,” he says. “Who could forget the forceful presence of Irma Bundt as Blofeld’s right hand in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, for instance? No man could best her, not even 007. Similarly, Rosa Klebb in From Russia With Love, obviously frustrated by the lack of opportunities for advancement in the KGB, joined SPECTRE and was entrusted with running one of its most important operations. Then there were Helga Brandt in You Only Live Twice and Fiona Volpe in Thunderball, both top SPECTRE killers playing major roles in their operations.” Corkstone also feels that honourable mention should also be made of Goldfinger, in the context of gender equality in the workplaces, pointing out that the gold-obsessed villain had been happy to employ the lesbian Pussy Galore in his organisation (even if she did fall at the final hurdle and swap sides, in every sense).

“And where was MI6 in all of this?” asks the academic. “Certainly not practicing equal opportunities for women, that’s for sure. Miss Moneypenny was the most prominent woman they employed and she was just a secretary, entrusted only with the typing and flirting with Bond. As far as the old school tie brigade running the Secret Intelligence Service in those days was concerned, women existed solely for the purpose of being imperilled by villains and seduced by friendly agents.  MI6 seems to have been given a licence to discriminate!” He points out that even the KGB, by the seventies, was ahead of the game in respect of employing women, with their top licenced to kill agent, Triple X, revealed to be female in The Spy Who Loved Me. Like the female assassins employed by SPECTRE, he contends, she was treated with respect by her colleagues and recognised by her employers for her professionalism and skill. “Of course when they fouled up, these women could still find themselves being fed to piranha fish,” Corkstone concedes. “But male employees who underperformed could expect the same treatment – another demonstration of equal opportunities in action at SPECTRE once more.”

The report argues that SPECTRE was even doing better than MI6 in the sixties ans seventies when it came to employing ethnic minorities. “Blofeld was happy to employ hundreds of Japanese technicians inside that volcano in You Only Live Twice, for instance. Then there was Mr Big with his all black crime organisation in Live and Let Die,” muses Corkstone. “The best MI6 could muster in the same period was having Quarell on the pay roll in the sixties and his son in the seventies. Which smacks of nepotism, incidentally. Something which shouldn’t be surprising where an organisation staffed primarily by the old school tie brigade is concerned.”

Unsurprisingly, the intelligence services have rejected the report’s findings, their primary criticism being that Corkstone’s methodology seemed to involve watching James Bond movies, rather than researching their actual employment record. “Not only that, but he only seemed to look at the sixties and seventies movies, presumably because the later ones would have undermined his arguments,” a government spokesperson told The Sleaze. “If he’d bothered watching the eighties films, particularly those with Timothy Dalton, he would have seen an increased role for women in the organisation. The Pierce Brosnan films would really have blown him out of the water: a female M, a black Chief of Staff, Moneypenny as a strong independent woman! No wonder he didn’t want to watch those.” The spokesperson did concede a lack of gay, lesbian or transgender staff was a continued problem. “We do sometimes get male agents to drag up for honey trap operations, or occasionally hang out in gay bars to entrap foreign diplomats,” they told us. “Does that count?” Corkstone remains unimpressed. “Sure, I know that MI6 eventually had a female M, but, in my opinion, it was too little, too late to dispel its image as a bastion of institutionalised sexism,” he opines. “Not only that, but their female recruitment always seems to focus on recruiting beautiful female agents to act as sex objects for the men – when they start employing ugly or plain women, I’ll believe that they are serious about recruiting women solely on their own merits. Damn it, SPECTRE were happily employing Irma Bundt back in 1969 and nobody would ever mistake her for a sex object!”