James first worked at the BBC in the 1990s, as Head of Corporate Planning. He had previously been a research fellow on IPPR’s media project, and before that was a strategy consultant in media and telecommunications at Hydra Associates.
He left the BBC to be Special Adviser on the Knowledge Economy, including internet and broadcasting policy, to Tony Blair after he became Prime Minister. He was a Member of Parliament for Stalybridge and Hyde, before becoming Secretary of State for Culture and then for Work and Pensions. He resigned from the government in June 2009, and stood down from parliament at the 2010 Election.
Before rejoining the BBC, James was Senior Producer at Rare Day, an independent production company, and an adviser to the Boston Consulting Group.