Tsars in their eyes: How the Coalition is appointing advisers faster than Tony Blair

More than 90 policy experts engaged by the Government in two years since the election

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Indy Politics

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

Research by 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.

In the two years since they were elected, Conservative and Liberal Democrat 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 – or 26 per year. Russia managed only 26 between 1546 and 1917.

The new policy tsars range from the controversial to the technical to the downright obscure. Alongside household names such as Mary Portas, the "high street tsar" charged with rejuvenating Britain's town centres, and Lord Ashcroft, the controversial Conservative peer who has just been appointed as veterans tsar to help soldiers make the transition to civilian life, are those most people have never heard of.

David Quarnby, for example, was chosen to lead a review of England's "transport resilience" following the chaos caused by the winter of 2010. Professor Paul Davies was asked to examine the vexed issue of "statutory regime issuer liability". The research found that most of those appointed have certain things in common: of the 240 tsars under both Governments, 84 per cent have been men, and 83 per cent are over the age of 50.

Only 2 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.

Most commonly, they had experience in business (40 per cent), public services (28 per cent), academia and research (23 per cent) and politics (18 per cent).

Ruth Levitt, visiting senior research fellow at King's College, who carried out the research, to be published next month, said: "The lack of diversity was very striking. 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 advise that ministers are receiving."

Who's who: The expert guide

The ones you may have heard of...

Mary Portas TV presenter brought in to lead of review of how to rejuvenate UK high streets.

Emma Harrison Head of A4e made "back to work" tsar until concerns about fraud in her company forced her to resign.

Tom Winsor Former rail regulator brought in to conduct a review of police pay, later appointed HM Inspector of Constabulary.

Adrian Beecroft Businessman appointed to review employment laws. Caused a storm by recommending that employers should be able to sack workers without needing to prove fault.

John Vickers Former chief economist of the Bank of England carried out a review of banking regulations. His recommendations form the central part of the banking reform bill.

... and those you may not

Howard Goodall The composer was appointed National Singing Ambassador in 2009.

Alan Cook Non-executive chairman of the Highways Agency was called in to carry out a review of the strategic road network.