James studied PPE at Balliol College Oxford, where he spent his summers as a research assistant to an aspiring Tony Blair, following him to No.10 as a Special Adviser in 1997. In 2001 he was selected Labour candidate and won the seat of Stalybridge & Hyde. His work as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Creative Industries and Tourism in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, contributed to the UKs now robust film industry as he helped created tax breaks for the film industry. In 2008 he was promoted to Work and Pensions before resigning to follow his passion for the arts. After a series of Directorships at the BBC, including launching BBC Sounds, James accepted the role of President at the University of Arts in 2021.