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 Full text 
Wednesday, 7 February 2018 - Strasbourg Revised edition

13. The consequences of rising socio-economic inequalities for European citizens (topical debate)
Video of the speeches

  Syed Kamall, on behalf of the ECR group . – Madam President, when we talk about socio-economic inequality, there are often two simple solutions that are offered, You either make the richer poorer, or you make the poorer richer, and I believe that actually what we should do is focus on pathways out of poverty.

One of the most inspiring parts of my job in London, is meeting or helping the many local community projects tackling poverty in their local neighbourhoods. They are often inspired by local people who want to make a difference, so it is disappointing that when politicians or commentators talk about poverty, they tend to focus on what the state can or cannot do, or whether large NGOs are effective or not, too often neglecting the inspirational local community projects in the hearts of our communities.

Though, in some ways, both the Left and the Right have failed the poor. While the Left believe in top-down government, taxing people more to distribute more money to the poor via more public servants, more trade unions, etc., we all know of areas where lots of money has been spent over the years and we still see deprivation in those areas. But many on the Right argue that poverty is best tackled by cutting taxes, creating more jobs with additional wealth trickling down to the poor, but they forget that the welfare state was created since private provision did not reach everyone.

So while state welfare and large NGOs do have a role to play, last month the ECR Group held a global poverty summit which brought together local community projects from across the world to tell their inspiring stories of how they tackled poverty at a grass-roots level.

So, whether the Left call it cooperative socialism, or the Right call it community conservatism or localist libertarianism, I hope that we can all pay more attention and champion the role of grass-roots anti-poverty projects in all our local communities, rather than top-down state or top-down wealth, and I see the Left laughing and insulting these very many community projects.

Allow me on a personal note to end on that equality. I realise I am the first non-white leader of any political group in this Parliament, but I’m still shocked by the lack of racial diversity not only in this House, but across all EU institutions, and if the EU is going to have any credibility on the issues of diversity and equality, it needs to get its own house in order. Let us, across the political spectrum, reach out to young people in all our countries and tell them that whatever your colour, your gender, your religion, your orientation or your background, you should not be afraid to put yourself forward for public office.

The EU is often accused of being a rich white man’s club. It is time to take action if the EU really wishes to live up to its motto of ‘United in Diversity’.

Last updated: 13 April 2018Legal notice