Coalition picks more 'tsars' than Russian empire had in 450 years

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The Independent Online

There used to be a joke when Tony Blair was Prime Minister that he created more tsars than the Russian empire. Yesterday, new figures revealed that he didn't have a patch on the current Government.

Research by academics at King's College London has found that the Coalition has been appointing policy tsars at a rate which is double that of the previous Labour administration.

Since they were elected in 2010, ministers have named more than 90 public appointees charged with representing particular interests in government or finding solutions to difficult areas of policy.

Labour appointed a total of 130 tsars between 2005 and 2010 – 26 per year. Russia managed only 26 tsars between 1546 until 1917. The range of roles and responsibilities the new policy tsars have vary from the controversial, to the technical, to the downright obscure. But researchers at King's discovered that most appointees did have certain things in common: of the 240 appointed under both governments, 84 per cent have been men, and 83 per cent over the age 50.

Only two per cent had African or Asian backgrounds and fewer than half (46 per cent) had professional expertise in the relevant policy area they were being asked to look at.

Ruth Levitt, who jointly carried out the research for King's, said she was struck both by the growth of tsars and the homogenous nature of the appointments.

"The lack of diversity was very striking," she said. "While being white and middle aged and male is no bad thing in itself, it does suggest a similarity of life experience and may compromise the range and scope of advice ministers are receiving."

Some appointees, such as 'high street tsar' Mary Portas, above, are well known. Others include David Quarnby, reviewing England's 'transport resilience', and Paul Davies, examining 'statutory regime issuer liability'.