“On Friday, my constituent Zac Olumegbon was murdered in a planned attack close to his school. He was just 15, and I know that the thoughts of the entire House will be with his family at this very difficult time. He was the 13th teenager to lose a life needlessly in our capital city. Can the Prime Minister tell me, the rest of the House and the country what his government is doing, and will be doing, to stop this happening in our communities?”
That was the first question I ever asked at Prime Minister’s Questions, then with David Cameron, shortly after being elected in May 2010.
Zac was stabbed to death in front of Park Campus School in our borough of Lambeth in July 2010. Only the day before, he had spoken at a “Youth Against Violence” conference and was trying to turn his own life around, having got involved with the wrong people at a young age.
He was associated with TN1 (“Trust No One”) – often referred to as a “gang” locally (more on the use of that term below) – who operate in the part of my constituency the home secretary visited on Monday to launch the government’s strategy to tackle serious violence.”
So what are you doing, in your constituency, to prevent gang violence?
Well, it seems the answer is ‘nothing’:
Part of the problem is the use of the term “gang” (I’ve been guilty of using it myself in the past), which needs to be expunged from the public debate about our young people.
Oh, my mistake. You’re whinging about terminology.
Labelling young people in this way reinforces the notion that they are gangsters when they are not. These terms enable officialdom to put all of these young people into a pigeonhole and carry on as if this is what one expects in certain communities.
It does indeed seem to be more prevalent among certain ‘communities’. Maybe because they aren’t really ‘communities’ as most people define that word?
In any case, the term “gang” and the imagery it provokes is increasingly inaccurate. Ten years ago, there tended to be large groups of young people operating together, whereas now the groups are smaller and more locally based…
A Smart car is still a car, despite the fact it’s not comparable in size to a Range Rover….
Poverty is almost always in the background. I’ve been told by young people who live this life of violence or have managed to get out of it that one of the motivators is the desire to provide for their family – usually their mother, as absentee fathers are frequently a problem.
Ah yes. We always get down to this with these people. ‘Throw someone else’s money at us and we might stop our young men killing each other!’.
Well, no. Frankly, it’s not worth the cost.