Gang members possess “entrepreneurial instinct” which could be channelled to create successful business enterprises, Streatham MP Chuka Umunna believes.
The Shadow Business Secretary claims gangsters in his constituency, which also includes parts of Brixton, Clapham and Tulse Hill, would help boost the local economy if their drive to make money was redirected towards creating small start-up companies instead of peddling crime.
In a speech about social mobility, the Lambeth politician will tell an audience at Westminster tonight he wants to see gang members being encouraged to use their skills in legitimate projects.
He will say: “What frustrates me is this - many of these young people are using skills that, if channelled in the right way, would 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 these young gang members could achieve if their energies were redirected.”
Mr Umunna, who chairs the London Gangs Forum, which looks at ways to help youths get out of crime, will add: “Their entrepreneurial zeal, used in a legitimate business setting, could provide them with a ladder up, just as it did for my father.
“Of course the reasons why young people get involved in gangs are complex and varied.
“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’s father came to England penniless from Nigeria in the 1960s.
When his boat docked at Liverpool, a stranger lent him the money for a train fare to London, where he eventually built a successful import and export business which traded goods between Europe and West Africa.