Young gang members display “entrepreneurial zeal” in their criminal activities and should be encouraged to start their own businesses, according to the shadow business secretary.
Labour politician Chuka Umunna will today argue that teenagers involved in street crime demonstrate high levels of business acumen that could be put to good use if channelled in the the right way.
In a speech in Westminster, the MP for Streatham will say the way gangs build their own “brand” through the internet shows a sense of enterprise that despite being “shocking”, needs to be redirected and positively harnessed.
He will focus on his own borough of Lambeth as the perfect example of how the skills and energies of young people are being wasted as they become sucked into in criminal life.
Mr Umunna, who is Chair of the London Gangs Forum, will say: “Make no mistake: at the heart of these gangs activities are criminality and very serious violence.
“But if one studies what Lambeth's gangs do in more detail, it is both shocking and frustrating - they put a lot of effort into building up their gang's brand.
“You can find music videos they produce to promote their activities on YouTube. This brand building is shocking because it glamorises what they do.
“What frustrates me is many of these young people are using skills that if channelled in the right way, would provide them with an alternative route to success.”
He will add: “In Lambeth, too much of this entrepreneurial instinct is being channelled into totally the wrong thing.
“Their entrepreneurial zeal, used in a legitimate business setting, could provide them with a ladder up.
“We must make legitimate business a more feasible avenue through which our young people can realise their dreams even when all else may have failed them.”
Mr Umunna will use his speech to highlight how he sees entrepreneurship as central to Labour's approach to increasing social mobility.