Umunna: let's harness gang members' entrepreneurial zeal

Jun 26, 2012

Rising Labour star Chuka Umunna says young criminals' skills could be redirected into business

Rex Features

RATHER than being a criminal scourge of Britain's inner cities, young street gang members have the potential to become the entrepreneurs of the future according to Chuka Umunna, the shadow business secretary who is frequently talked of as a future Labour leader.

The Guardian reports that Umunna, the 33-year-old MP for Streatham, will tell a Hub Westminster event on entrepreneurship and social mobility that some gang members devote a lot of energy into "brand-building" and other activities that display "entrepreneurial zeal" which could be harnessed for the good.

He will cite gang members in his south London constituency, which includes Brixton and Tulse Hill, who put together videos to promote their activites on YouTube and other social media websites. As chair of the London Gang Forum, Umunna is spearheading moves to force YouTube to remove these videos, viewing them as "notorious and glamourising what they do".

But he also admits to "frustration" that these youngsters are using skills which "could provide them with an alternative route to success" if they could only be channelled in another way. "Just imagine," he pleads, "what our young gang members could achieve if their energies were redirected?"

Umunna has addressed the problems of street gangs frequently, with the borough of Lambeth suffering a recent upsurge in violence, including the shooting of Thusha Kamaleswaran in a Stockwell supermarket in 2011. Following last year's London riots, he warned about the "lack of opportunities for young people".

His maternal grandfather was a High Court judge, but Umunna's father was a Nigerian immigrant who came to Britain in the 1960s and built up a successful business before being killed in a car accident when his son was just 13. The MP has been dubbed 'Britain's Barack Obama' - a tag which he is understandably wary of, saying "I want people to look at me as me, not through the prism of someone else's personality."

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