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Leigh Turner

Ambassador to Austria and UK Permanent Representative to the United Nations and other International Organisations in Vienna

Part of Speakers' Corner

6th March 2015

James Bond, conspiracy theories and the Welsh Secret Service

Amongst the snippets of “what will happen in 2015?” news earlier this year I saw one piece of news sure to please many people.

A new James Bond 007 Film, “Spectre”, will launch in November.


People are fascinated by secret services.  Some are more secret than others.  My blog of December 2010, “I can burn your face”, expressed my admiration for the Dutch secret service, the AIVD, for the fact I’d never even heard of them until I saw references to them in a show by an artist at the Tate Modern.

That’s impressive.  The AIVD may not be as secretive or all-powerful as the Welsh Secret Service (see below); but they’re masters of keeping a low profile.

Let’s be clear: James Bond is a fictional character.  But the organisation for which he supposedly works really exists.  The Secret Intelligence Service, popularly known as MI6, has a website where, it advertises, you can “find out all about SIS and our role in international intelligence”.

What has all this got to do with conspiracy theories?

I like Turkey.  In my 2013 blog “Why Turkey can be confident” I wrote that I’d regularly been impressed by this wonderful, welcoming country.  I’ve now published over 300 “#reasonstolikeIstanbul” on my Twitter account @leighturnerFCDO.

In that blog I said that, given Turkey’s obvious outstanding qualities, including immense economic strength, I found it baffling that some people told me they believed events inside Turkey were somehow determined by external actors.  What I saw, by contrast, was a vibrant, successful country heading for a trillion-dollar economy and playing an increasingly important role in international affairs.

My 2014 blog “Reptiles, Fairies, Conspiracies and Cock-ups” noted how conspiracy theories often contradict each other – because they are based on the pre-existing beliefs of those who imagine them.  In that blog I said again that Turkey should be confident about its role in the world; and take pride in the fact that Turkish people, rather than shadowy and usually imaginary foreign forces, will determine the future of the country.

One thing conspiracy theories have in common is that there is no evidence to support them.

That’s logical.  If conspiracy theories are supported by evidence, they become facts.

I read a terrific analysis of conspiracies recently.  It argued that the greater the absence of evidence for the existence of a conspiracy, the more certain those who believe in it become that it exists.  Instead of concluding that the conspiracy does not exist, the absence of evidence convinces those who believe in the conspiracy that it must be even more fearsome and all-powerful than they suppose.  This, in turn, strengthens their belief in it.

This is where the Welsh Secret Service comes in.

As I made clear in my tweets on 1 March to mark St David’s Day, I’m proud of my Welsh heritage.  I wouldn’t do anything to put at risk the agents of the Welsh Secret Service.

But I can, exclusively for readers of this blog, confirm that it could, possibly, exist.  Unlike the SIS or AIVD, It has no web-site.  The WSS is far too discreet for that.  Its agents, all trained in the ancient Welsh martial art of Llap Goch, operate from their secret base in the stunningly beautiful mountains of North Wales under cover of total anonymity, and deniability.

Welsh Secret Service HQ?
Welsh Secret Service HQ?

You can try all you want to find out about them.  But such is their tradecraft and expertise that you’ll never find a single piece of evidence to support their existence.

In some people’s eyes, that could well make them the most successful and powerful intelligence agency on earth.

So next time someone advances an explanation without providing any convincing evidence to support it, ask yourself: could this be a baseless conspiracy theory?

Could whatever you want to explain actually be the work of the secret operatives of the all-powerful Welsh Secret Service?

Or should you ask for evidence and hard facts before you believe what people are telling you?

Meanwhile, I look forward to “Spectre”.  I’m sure it will be enormous fun – and bear little relation to reality.

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About Leigh Turner

I hope you find this blog interesting and, where appropriate, entertaining. My role in Vienna covers the relationship between Austria and the UK as well as the diverse work of…

I hope you find this blog interesting and, where appropriate, entertaining. My role in Vienna covers the relationship between Austria and the UK as well as the diverse work of the UN and other organisations; stories here will reflect that.

About me: I arrived in Vienna in August 2016 for my second posting in this wonderful city, having first served here in the mid-1980s. My previous job was as HM Consul-General and Director-General for Trade and Investment for Turkey, Central Asia and South Caucasus based in Istanbul.

Further back: I grew up in Nigeria, Exeter, Lesotho, Swaziland and Manchester before attending Cambridge University 1976-79. I worked in several government departments before joining the Foreign Office in 1983.

Keen to go to Africa and South America, I’ve had postings in Vienna (twice), Moscow, Bonn, Berlin, Kyiv and Istanbul, plus jobs in London ranging from the EU Budget to the British Overseas Territories.

2002-6 I was lucky enough to spend four years in Berlin running the house, looking after the children (born 1992 and 1994) and doing some writing and journalism.

To return to Vienna as ambassador is a privilege and a pleasure. I hope this blog reflects that.