For those of you who haven't been following, this is how it goes: government appoints James Caan, a self-made millionaire and former judge on Dragon's Den, to be its "social mobility tsar". In his first public statement Caan makes the bold and admirable assertion that parents should resist the instinct to help their children up the career ladder:
It immediately transpires that Caan's two daughters both work for him. Cue a joyful and for once quite justified bout of jeering from the press.
Having said that, let me tell you where I am. Caan is clearly being foolish. It's not that he was hiding anything - his daughters' employment was public knowledge. He just appears to have a massive blind spot when it comes to seeing any inconsistency between his beliefs and his actions. That is, he appears to be a stranger to cognitive dissonance, which perhaps explains that unruffled demeanour. His subsequent attempts to justify himself have made things worse:
Yes, James, but the day before you were suggesting that parents ought to resist this innate feeling. That's a hard position to take when you're incapable of doing so yourself.
The self-delusion is staggering. But then, this shouldn't come as a surprise. Entrepreneurs are more likely to be self-deceiving than the rest of us. You need massive over-confidence to start a business which rationally you know is likely to fail. People who rise to the top in highly competitive fields are those who most adept at pretending the world is just the way they want it to be (or that if it isn't, they can make it so). That mindset, when combined with genuine talent, is great if you're in business or sport, but it's less useful in government, where cool analysis and patience are more important.
Mary Portas was another "tsar". This fatuous term, borrowed from America (and before that, imperial Russia), is meant to sound impressive but only points to the powerlessness of the position. Appointed to fix Britain's high streets, Portas came up with a scheme that, whether because it's innately impractical or because the government failed to support it, has failed. But so what - she's on to the next thing. Her career was never at stake. I say this not to criticise Portas, but to demonstrate the utter futility of giving someone a government role, knowing that they have neither the right abilities nor the motivation to see it through, just because their face is familiar to readers of Heat magazine.
The real problem the Caan affair exposes isn't nepotism. It's celebism.