Chuka Umunna wants gang members to use their ‘skillz’ elsewhere

It is wise for Labour to step up and not only say a crackdown on gang crime is needed, but to also suggest alternative routes for Britain’s young people.

E-mail-sign-up Donate



Following on from last year’s riots in August, the topic of gang warfare and stories of their shocking inner-workings have been recurrent in the media.

chuka-umunnaLeft Foot Forward reported back in April that 22% of crime in London is committed by young people in gangs and only 17% of young people feel safe on the streets of London, yet the government doesn’t see combating this epidemic as a priority.

Education reforms are suggested by figures that show only 1 in 10 of the rioters achieved 5 GCSE grades A*-C, but the government’s intended reforms to bring back a two-tier education system will confine many students to grade C and below – a move which will quash their aspirations even further.

Labour’s shadow business secretary will wade into the debate this evening, in a speech he will give at the Hub Westminster on ‘Getting on with business: Entrepreneurship and social mobility’:

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. Most are involved with the sale of drugs; but 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 featuring Lambeth’s gangs.

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.


See also:

“There’s no such thing as broken Britain, we’re just bloody broke in Britain” 5 Jun 2012

Plan B: “Class war is perpetuated in the media, and we all fall into the trap” 28 May 2012

Responses to gang culture: The need for localised strategies 20 Apr 2012

Responding to the riots: We need more than fuzzy buzz words from the government 1 Apr 2012


Their entrepreneurial zeal, used in a legitimate business setting, could provide them with a ladder up, just as it did for my father. Instead, as things stand, many of them will likely end up in jail with blood on their hands unless we change things.

Of course the reasons why young people get involved in gangs are complex and varied. But what is clear is that the entrepreneurial spirit is strong in them, albeit misdirected. We must make legitimate business a more feasible avenue through which they can realise their dreams even when all else may have failed them.”

Rapper turned director Plan B (Ben Drew) has previously criticised the way young people are treated by the government, calling the main character in his film ‘iLL Manors’, “a poster boy for David Cameron’s Broken Britain”.

In the face of the criticism directed at the Tories on the matter, it is wise for Labour to step up and not only say a crackdown on gang crime is needed, but to also suggest alternative routes for Britain’s young people.


Sign-up to our weekly email • Donate to Left Foot Forward

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by becoming a Left Foot Forward Supporter today.