11 APRIL 1998, Page 28

Good for a laugh

Sir: Of course MI5 should not destroy its surviving files from the Cold War, the sec- ond world war, the first world war or any other period of its history (`Once red but should they still be read?', 28 March), but it seems churlish not to applaud the efforts that the service is currently making to accommodate historians and other parties interested in its historical archive. To imag- ine that the current M15 hierarchy gives two hoots about covering up supposed transgressions of the service in the 1920s seems far-fetched to say the least.

Having said that, it is difficult not to be amused by your correspondent David Turn- er's assertion (Letters, 4 April) that he and his fellow 'subversives' gave the 'spooks' sleepless nights: my social contacts with members of the Security Service when I worked in military intelligence always led me to suppose that its widely touted para- noia regarding domestic subversion was actually a front for an essentially recre- ational activity: it was easy enough to main- tain surveillance of the well publicised antics and connections of the subversive groups and individuals, as well as being good for a laugh. The idea that revolution- aries of the calibre of Peter Mandelson, Jack Straw, Harriet Harman and Joan Rud- dock might actually constitute a threat to the state always struck most people involved in watching them as ridiculous. They've accomplished far more profound damage since they got respectable and got elected . . . Oh my God!

Adrian Weale