Written by Katy Campbell • Published 25th July 2012

In late June, when Labour politician and shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna made the claim that young gang members display “entrepreneurial zeal” in their criminal activities, the country gave a collective shudder. How could a political figure, albeit one who chairs the London Gangs Forum, claim that violent crime could be likened to commercial competence?  However, when Umunna continues with his comments, it becomes clear that he is actually speaking a lot of sense.

In a speech in Westminster, Umunna pointed out that gang members put a lot of skill and effort into their criminal enterprise, and illustrate skills which “if channelled in the right way, would provide them with an alternative route to success”.  The MP for Streatham did, however, go on to claim, “Make no mistake: at the heart of these gangs activities are criminality and very serious violence.”

Umunna, who has also recently admitted smoking marijuana whilst a teenager, argues that gang members should get more help to start their own businesses, which could stop them engaging in criminal activity. Umunna claims, “Too much of this entrepreneurial instinct is being channelled into totally the wrong thing. Just imagine what these young gang members could achieve if their energies were redirected.”

Although it may seem counterintuitive to imagine that the young people terrorising London’s streets today are the Branson’s and Bannatynes of the future, Umana argues that these people just haven’t been given the opportunities that would set them up for life. Indeed, business could help these people find a way out of their criminal past.

Afterall, Umunna states, “we must make business a more feasible avenue through which our young people can realise their dreams even when all else may have failed them”.

Ultimately, if gang members begin to use their enterprise to create business rather than crime, it can only be a good thing for this country, and hopefully soon, we will see these young people using their “skillz” to use elsewhere.