He schooled at Oxford, he speaks fluent Turkish and his visually impaired wife helps campaign for guide dogs — and now he is head of MI6, one of the most powerful secret intelligence agencies in the world.
Richard Moore, the former British ambassador to Turkey and a career Whitehall insider has been named to replace Sir Alex Younger, who is due to step aside at the famed spy agency towards the end of the year, The Guardian reported.
Moore, 57, currently the political director at the Foreign Office, is the surprise pick from Downing Street, which had been expected to appoint Tom Hurd, a senior Home Office official and Eton schoolmate of Boris Johnson.
Moore served as ambassador to Turkey from January 2014 to December 2017, and has also been a deputy national security adviser. A fluent Turkish speaker, he studied PPE at Oxford and first joined MI6 in 1987, The Guardian reported.
Whitehall sources said they believed Moore would bring “an insider’s empathy but an outsider’s perspective” – having formally left the spy agency for a conventional career in the Foreign Office about a decade ago.
No woman has ever headed MI6 in its 111-year history, unlike the domestic intelligence agency MI5, which has twice had a female director general.
Two potential female candidates to lead MI6: Dame Karen Pierce and Madeleine Alessandri, were promoted to other jobs within government during the recruitment process, as Washington ambassador and permanent secretary at the Northern Ireland Office respectively, The Guardian reported.
However, Moore’s most heavily-tipped rival was Tom Hurd, a senior Home Office official responsible for security and counter terrorism, who is also a son of former Conservative foreign secretary Sir Douglas Hurd, and a school contemporary of the prime minister.
Announcing the appointment, Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, said Moore would return to MI6 “with tremendous experience and will oversee the work of a group of men and women whose tireless efforts are rarely seen in public, but which are critical for the security and prosperity of the UK.”
Moore said: “SIS [Secret Intelligence Service, as MI6 is officially known] plays a vital role – with MI5 and GCHQ – in keeping the British people safe and promoting UK interests overseas. I look forward to continuing that work alongside the brave and dedicated team at SIS.”
The new chief arrives at a time when MI6 is under pressure to refocus its efforts to targeting hostile states – China and Russia – while the scale of the threat from Islamist terror is unclear after Islamic State lost all its territory and its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Last week British politicians and British intelligence were accused of “taking their eye off the ball” when it came to the Kremlin, in a highly critical report from the intelligence and security committee watchdog, The Guardian reported.
It accused the spy agencies of failing to examine whether there was Russian interference in the 2016 Brexit referendum.
The head of the foreign intelligence service is the only publicly named officer of the service, although he is still also known informally as C, short for chief, the title used internally for leaders of the organization since its inception in 1909.
Younger, 56, will retire after nearly six years as director general. The top job at all Britain’s three spy agencies is frequently rotated, although Younger was the longest-serving leader of the organization for over 50 years.
Moore’s brief official biography says he was born in Libya and is married with two children, according to The Daily Mail Online.
It reads: “Outside of work, Richard’s interests include playing golf and watching cricket and rugby,” says the biography. “He speaks fluent Turkish.”
He was educated at St George’s College in Surrey — a Roman Catholic school — before reading philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford University.
He went onto study at the Kennedy School of Government in Harvard University through a scholarship for British graduates of universities in the UK, the Daily Mail reported.
Moore has frequently shared photographs of him and his wife Maggie on social media. They have been married since 1985.
Mrs Moore — who is visually impaired — was part of the inspiration behind the first guide dog partnership in Turkey.
She told local media: ‘Having a guide dog by your side goes beyond having a pet. You are a working team, but Star is also my companion, my buddy.
“For me, being independent is really important, particularly if I want to go out on my own.”
She lost about 90 per cent of her vision at the age of ten due to juvenile macular degeneration, the Daily Mail reported.
Mrs. Moore, while still in school, met her husband while on a pilgrimage to Lourdes, she told BBC Radio 4. She said Moore — who she dubs her “little miracle” — was the team leader in the hotel where she stayed.
He also appears to be the first MI6 boss with an active Twitter account.