Lonely Planet Writer

Spooks' surprise: MI5 is most LGBT-friendly in UK

In a surprising turn of events, it appears that the bastion of Englishness that inspired the character of James Bond has become the UK’s most LGBT-friendly employer.

Gay pride celebrations
Gay pride celebrations Image by Oh-Barcelona.com / CC BY 2.0

The gay-rights group Stonewall has published its annual ranking of businesses and employers, with the result that MI5 was the highest-ranking employer for LGBT employees.

Until as late as the 1990s it was illegal to employ homosexuals in MI5. But the British Secret Services have seen a long-fought and successful campaign of inclusion has earnt them the spot at the top.

The news might seem unsurprising to fans of London Spy, the hit 2015 drama series that saw Ben Whitshaw (already a gay icon to many) star as a gay secret service agent.

After entering the top 10 on the equality index in 2015, MI5 revealed that it employed more than 70 gay men and women across all areas, even in counter-terrorism.

MI5 has its own gay-friendly social network according to The Independent, and it hosts events and conferences about diversity and inclusion with its two partner agencies MI6 and GCHQ.

In 2015 MI5 headquarters in London, Thames House, flew the rainbow flag in honour of the Pride march taking place in London.

The new James Bond film is being shot on the river Thames near Vauxhall, London.
The MI5 HQ in central London. Image by Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

The Director General of MI5 commented on the Stonewall findings by saying that MI5 had a policy of recruiting the best people for the job. ““Diversity is vital for MI5,” he said, “Not just because it’s right that we represent the communities that we serve, but also because we rely on the skills of the most talented people, whoever they are and wherever they may be.”