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  1. Wealth
June 27, 2012

Chuka Umunna Wants to Turn Gangsters into Businessmen: Great Plan, But How?

By Spear's

There was an especially embarrassing moment on BBC news last nighta bit like if your granddad tried to high-five you when it broadcast a 50 Cent video to explain how the gangster-turned-rapper built up a global brand. Ummuna’s argument is that many gang members use clever branding, including music videos, to promote their activities.

Today Chuka Umunna, the shadow business secretary, will say that gang members have ‘entrepreneurial zeal’ which could be channelled into legitimate business activity.

There was an especially embarrassing moment on BBC news last night— a bit like if your granddad tried to high-five you — when it broadcast a 50 Cent video to explain how the gangster-turned-rapper built up a global brand. Ummuna’s argument is that many gang members use clever branding, including music videos, to promote their activities.

Now, I have a lot of respect for Ummuna, and not only because he’s my winner for Westminster pin-up of the year (consider his competition before you judge me for this). But also because I think it is an inspired idea. Gangs are essentially businesses, admittedly with nefarious development plans, and gangsters have to be able to manage complex accounts, often in their heads. Successful gang members have drive, ambition, determination and loyalty ­— which is more than you can say for the average 9 to 5 commuter.

My problem with his statement is that he doesn’t seem to have offered any concrete proposals for how to turn gangsters into legitimate entrepreneurs. You could dream up all kinds of useful transformations: let’s train the homeless as first-aiders so they can form a rapid-response emergency service on the streets, or pigeons to sniff out illegal drugs, or truanting school children as porters for the elderly! But these ideas don’t mean much if you can’t develop a sensible way of making it happen.


Read more by Sophie McBain

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