Get the spook look

IT took the news that the UK's spooks were going back to the old “tap on the shoulder” form of spy recruitment for me to realise they had ever stopped it. But they had. In fact in recent years if you wanted to join the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) you could have saved yourself the trouble of slogging through an expensive Oxbridge education and a boring job on the BBC World Service's Sanskrit desk and just applied online.

They even have a drop-down menu showing the various departments. How modern of them. The ones that catch my eye are Operational, Cyber and Intelligence (obviously). Proof that everyone needs accountants – well, everyone except the organisers of the Academy Awards – there are Admin and Finance sections too. But my favourites are Information Assurance (“No, really, it's absolutely fine to invade [country here]. The dossier's kosher – we swapped it for a signed Chelsea shirt and a Netflix subscription”) and Trades & Services. Presumably that second one is where you go to learn one of those wonderfully-named occupations that John le Carré fills his novels with, such as Lamplighter, Babysitter, Scalphunter, Housekeeper, Janitor and Shoemaker.

But in an interview last week, MI6 chief Alex Younger revealed that a more active recruitment policy was now required and that “tapping up” would once again become part of the process in order to reach out to those parts of the community that other beers – sorry, other recruitment methods – can't reach. Younger, known as C, also said that under the current system some applicants thought they stood a good chance of landing a job with SIS simply because they were good shots. D'oh. Call Of Duty clearly has a lot to answer for. Finally, he had sobering words for whoever holds the udders of the cash cow that is the James Bond franchise: “There is a perception out there that we want Daniel Craig, or Daniel Craig on steroids. He would not get into MI6. We need to get that message across because it is so embedded.”

Sin and bear it

ACCORDING to my in-box, which is never wrong, the seven deadly sins have been given a new twist in a book by author Mary Telford, who has re-imagined them as a set of dark, feminist morality tales. Illustrations are by Louise Verity, an artist and designer who has made clothes for The Pet Shop Boys, Iron Maiden and those Titans of the rock world, East 17, and who was once described by Vogue magazine as “the Mary Poppins of haberdashery”. I think it was meant as a compliment.

The book is called Sins (Lilliput Press, £25) and if you need a reminder, the seven in question are: lust, pride, envy, wrath, sloth, gluttony and greed. But as at least one of these is the founding principal of the all-you-can-eat buffet, which is very popular with families, and most of the rest are also seen as good things these days, it's clear we need a fresh set of sins for the 21st century. What would be they be, though?

Happily, Telford has come up with a list. They are: chauvinism, narcissism, anger, ignorance, cruelty, entitlement (what Telford describes describes as “the sin of not merely wanting, but expecting, something for nothing ... demanding rights at the same time as refusing obligations”) and finally, environmental carelessness, which can cover everything from cheating car emissions tests (take a bow, Volkswagen) to leaving dog poo hanging from trees in black plastic sacks (you know who you are).

I wonder how many Donald Trump can tick off before breakfast.

New model barmy

IF narcissism is the perfect sin for the digital age then the Instagram selfie is probably its purest expression. In which case Dolce & Gabbana's catwalk show at last week's Milan Fashion Week was wall-to-wall sinners.

In a move which will horrify Kate, Naomi, Giselle and the rest, the label declared the “post-model” age open and instead of sending a troop of mannequins sashaying down the runway it used 117 social media “influencers” – real people like vlogger Marcus Butler, who has 3.7 million followers on Instagram, Lady Kitty Spencer (Princess Diana's niece), Destry Allyn Spielberg (daughter of a certain movie director) and pop star Pixie Lott.

OK, so maybe “real people” is stretching it a bit, but you take the point. Why bother to pay for models when you can find people who'll walk the catwalk for nothing and also post self-glorifying pictures promoting the event on their Instagram, Twitter and Facebook pages? Mind you, for those fashion labels who still want to do it old-school the model agencies have a novel innovation – as well as their clients' vital statistics, they state the number of social media followers they have. You can imagine that supermodel Gigi Hadid, with an Instagram following of 30 million, is never going to have to get out of bed to post a picture of herself for less than £10,000 a day.

Anent Lent

ACTS of denial and self-sacrifice abound in the Christian faith though sadly they're far less common in government circles, unless we're talking about the sort of denials politicians make as their noses grow longer and their reputation for dissembling and mendacity grows deeper and wider.

How heartening, then, to see that Prime Minister Theresa May has given up something for Lent – and not something insignificant like pushing ahead with Trident or acting like Donald Trump isn't a dangerous maniac or pretending she'll wake up and find Nicola Sturgeon was just a bad dream. No, this is a biggie. If the Almighty has a good deeds ledger, this will be underlined and have a high-vis marker pen run over it. Mrs May is giving up crisps.

I know. Ain't it totally awesome of her?

Now it won't have escaped anyone's notice that the 40 days of Lent take us well into April, by which time the crisp-less May will have triggered Article 50 and set in train the process of the UK leaving the EU. But in a 2016 newspaper interview she talked about her reliance on “gut instinct” for determining the right course of political action. “I'll think it through,” she said, “look at the evidence, work through the arguments, because you have to think through the unintended consequences.”

So here's the question: can she – should she – be negotiating our collective future while denying her famous gut the sustaining and morale-boosting qualities of Britain's only other contribution to culinary culture besides Paul Hollywood? I say no. Forget your religious principles, Mrs May. Get snacking.