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Sunday, 31 October, 1999, 18:46 GMT
Czars: In your eyes
Keith Hellawell
Keith Hellawell: the first of the UK's new breed of czars
Pity the mere Whitehall mandarins, enforcers and spin doctors. For they are no czars.

There are czars to tackle drugs, cancer, and e-commerce, with the promise of more to come. So how could we all get in on the act?

Checking the job adverts
Don't be put off by dull job titles such as UK Anti-drug Co-ordinator - keep an eye peeled for the words "supremo", "chief adviser" or better still, "czar".

A Russian term, resurrected by the Americans, the title "czar" will give your new position a certain panache. Its overtones of autocratic, even imperial, power are sure to pay dividends during cocktail party chit-chat.

Gen Barry McCaffrey
The czar's the star: General McCaffrey
How to fill out the application
With such high-profile appointments at stake, competition is bound to be fierce. Don't be afraid to follow the example of previous czars and make a virtue of any precocious talents.

Former soldier Barry McCaffrey, czar of the US National Drug Control Policy, can claim to be America's youngest and most decorated four-star general. His British counterpart, West Yorkshire's former chief constable, Keith Hellawell, was the UK's youngest police sergeant.

Mention any unusual interests and hobbies. Internet czar Alex Allan is perhaps the only civil servant to have windsurfed along the Thames to work. The "e-envoy" also admits an enthusiasm for the drug-fuelled rock band Grateful Dead (see his website in Internet Links).

Windsurfing: A fitting sport for an ambitious czar
What to say at the interview
As a czar you will be expected to focus public attention on your issue. It will also be up to you to create and lobby for policy innovations.

Profess an eagerness to "knock heads together", "think the unthinkable" and "galvanise". Avoid the words "bullying", "outspoken" and "soundbite".

The pay deal
Being a czar can be lucrative. Keith Hellawell, a former miner, receives 106,057 per annum. This pay packet is heftier than even the prime ministers.

Mike Richards has been seconded to the Department of Health at his existing salary. (He is a professor at London's Guy's and St Thomas's Hospital.)

Mike Richards
Professor Mike Richards vows to cut cancer deaths
While this arrangement may suit top doctors, potential "till operator czars" or "special advisers on office cleaning" should check the small print.

What sort of powers you can expect
Although not an honorary post, the influence of a czar is less impressive than the title would suggest.

Your success will rely on capturing the imagination of the media and more importantly your direct boss, Tony Blair.

Hellawell has secured 217m to help implement his anti-drugs strategy. Richards's campaign to improve cancer treatment has already been boosted by the promise of 80m from the government.

However heavyweight US czar General McCaffrey has a budget of $17.8bn, equal to the gross domestic product of Luxembourg, with which to wage his "war on drugs".

Alex Allan e-envoy
Alex Allan: the windsurfing civil servant
Accolades and brickbats
The rough ride may not be over once you have battled for funding. Unlike their Russian forebears, a latterday czar must weather criticism.

Pundits have suggested czars are merely cosmetic figures - intended to prove government resolve to tackle thorny issues, but offering the politicians a scapegoat should initiatives fail to have an impact.

Tory health spokesman, Liam Fox, greeted the appointment of a cancer czar saying: "We need fewer spin doctors and more doctors."

Their performance aside - some resent the very connotations of the word czar.

A panel of drug addiction experts, writing in the British Medical Journal, were horrified by the hunt for a "czar".

Czar Nicholas II
Nicholas II: Another unelected Czar
"The macho nature of the post is further signalled by its title - no czarina need apply."

The future for czars
Though Hellawell, two years into his three-year contract, has not been the forceful champion some had expected - the immediate future of the czars remains bright.

Allen and Richards have yet to begin work proper, and other czar vacancies have yet to be filled. A street czar, to fight homelessness, and a smuggling czar, to shake up Customs and Excise, have been promised.

Whitehall could soon be awash with these special advisers - leading perhaps to the need for someone to keep them in order. A czar czar, perhaps.

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See also:

09 Jun 99 | UK Politics
The drug czar answers your questions
25 Oct 99 | Health
'Cancer supremo' appointed
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