MP backs London gangs' 'brand building' skills

Young people involved in South London gangs possess impressive “brand building” skills that should be channelled away from the “wrong kind of business” towards legitimate enterprise, a Labour MP says.

Addressing start-ups and their supporters, shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna said many teen gang members in Lambeth demonstrated “entrepreneurial instinct” that, despite being strong, has been “misdirected.”

Evidencing his claim, he said that while most gangsters tended to be involved in sales (of drugs), some have diversified their activities around lawful creative pursuits, often having “put a lot of effort into building up their gang’s brand.”

The MP for Streatham added: “Some have branched out into more legitimate activities around fashion and music. You can find music videos they produce to promote their activities on YouTube. BBC Radio 4’s Today programme did a series of reports on this a couple of weeks ago”.

Although he stressed that their YouTube videos should be removed, Mr Umunna claimed gang members increasingly seek to make money through illegitimate means purely as a platform to launch a legitimate venture.

“I am sure that many in this room have struggled to access finance to start and grow their business, and will have considered peer to peer lending,” the MP told Hub Westminster, a facilities provider to start-ups. “Well, among this group in my constituency there was a perception that profits from illegal commerce were the most viable solution for them.”

The Labour enterprise spokesman is not the only member of his party to see commercial nous in street criminals. Tess Jowell, the Olympics minister, has said gangsters have ‘formidable leadership skills,’ albeit put to “bad use.”

Mr Umunna enforced: “What frustrates me is this: many of these young people are using skills that – if channelled in the right way – could provide them with an alternative route to success.

“And yet, in Lambeth, too much of this entrepreneurial instinct is being channelled into totally the wrong thing. Just imagine what our young gang members could achieve if their energies were redirected. Their entrepreneurial zeal, used in a legitimate business setting, could provide them with a ladder up”.

 

29th June 2012

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