James Caan gets off to a poor start as the  new social mobility Czar


Many of you are probably aware that in 2010 Alan Milburn was appointed the ‘social mobility czar’. Indeed,  he  produced a rather good , impressively comprehensive report on  social mobility, We also have Simon Hughes MP , who is the ‘access czar’ .Hughes  has  a  lower profile. The two roles, self-evidently,  overlap.  Confusingly now, James Caan, the entrepreneur, who used to be on TV in the  Dragons Den,  was ,this week, also   given the title ‘social mobility czar’ by Nick Clegg.  Quite why the term  ‘Czar ‘is routinely used without any sense of irony, and is common currency,  is lost on me. Were  the Czars known for their commitment to education and social mobility? One doesn’t need to be Simon Schama to know that the Czars  first priority was probably not an unwavering  commitment to increasing the life opportunities of the most disadvantaged .   Does  this  matter? Yes, it probably does. Words and language in politics not only provide  literal meaning ,they  convey a mind-set, an attitude, a  mood, a set of values and context.  So ,the  term Czar has no utility and  should  pass  into history.

James Caan, spent his first media interview arguing that parents shouldn’t give their offspring a helping hand in the workplace. The   highly successful Pakistan-born businessman warned of the dangers of helping out one’s children too readily. Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Caan said it was important to “let the child stand on his own two feet” and not assist them finding a job until “the child has tried everything”. He explained: “You are trying to develop your child too; you don’t want them to feel as though they don’t have to make the effort.”

Some might agree. But, and its quite a big ‘ but’, Caan has apparently  helped at least one of his  own daughters to  find employment .Caan’s younger daughter, Hanah, has no fewer than three roles within his business and charitable empire. It also transpired that his elder daughter, Jemma, now works for a recruitment company in which Caan invests,( though that came after four years of post-university work elsewhere). So it looks very much as if Caan  might be  a do as  I say, not do as I do kind of guy, so maybe not the right person to lead on social mobility, fine businessman though he may be. Or am I missing something?  And what do Alan Milburn and Simon Hughes have to say about it all? And whats so  deeply depressing about all this  is  that politicians  still seem to  think this approach makes a difference. What  has  happened to evidence led policy? This is all presentation  and no substance and the presentation  isnt up to much!. Cue, Clegg and others distancing themselves from Caan.


In a statement on his website, Caan insisted he believed parents should “encourage their children to explore their own opportunities and define themselves in their own right”. He added: “The fact is that parents will always have the innate feeling to help their children into jobs. I’m no different.”



  1. Call me cynical, but your last three blogs serve only to emphasise the complete ineptness and clumsy handling of the policies (or complete lack of them) in relation to the future development of young people. What does this Government actually understand by the term social mobility one wonders….?
    As you say the use of the term Czar says it all!

    As this years cohorts of young people come to the all important decision making processes, post GCSE’s and A levels, with pathetic levels of support and guidance, we have the minister responsible taking an extended paternity leave at this crucial time. One can hardly begrudge him this, I guess……but who will deputise for him in this vitally important area?

    • He hasn’t grasped the nettle and look at his evidence to the select committee. and his contribution to the recent debate in Westminster Hall on Vocational Education on 4 June…. Crikey ..!.. Every time he speaks he undermines the importance of professional careers advice..But I dont blame him personally he reflects the prevailing culture ..

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