Manchester City Council

The Council & democracy Deputy Leader of the Council

Councillor Sue Murphy: Questions for the municipal year 2011/2012

Councillor Sue Murphy

Anonymous who lives and works in Manchester asked:
At a time when St Petersburg is introducing some very repressive anti-gay legislation and supporters of equal rights are calling for a boycott of the city, do you think it is appropriate that Manchester is staging a number of events to actively promote the city?

Councillor Sue Murphy, Deputy Leader, replied:
The activity which is taking place in both Manchester and St Petersburg this year has been arranged to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the friendship link between the people in our two cities. Most of the events which are taking place have been led by individuals and organisations that have longstanding relationships with their counterparts in St Petersburg.

Acknowledging and supporting these strong links between the people in our two cities means that we can continue to develop friendship and understanding between Manchester and St Petersburg.

We believe that we can make a significant contribution to this relationship by demonstrating to St Petersburg how the success of Manchester has been built on openness and tolerance, and the enormous benefits that this brings to our city. It encourages tourism and investment, attracts people to make Manchester their home, aids cohesion and brings all of our communities closer together.

Through our relationship with St Petersburg and the anniversary activity organised this year we have been able to address the new legislation with the city at the highest level. In early March we held a meeting with the Governor of St Petersburg, during which I raised our concerns about the legislation that he had been asked to sign, emphasising how much we value openness and diversity in Manchester and the benefits which this brings. The spirit of friendship and cooperation enabled us not only to secure a meeting with the Governor but also to directly address this issue with him.

Whilst I was in St Petersburg I also met with LGBT representatives there and took to them a letter of solidarity from the Lesbian and Gay Foundation in Manchester. Having now created a link between LGBT groups in Manchester and St Petersburg we can continue to develop and enhance the links between the people in our two cities, which means that we can provide advice, support and genuine solidarity. We believe that supporting activity during the anniversary year will enable us to strengthen these links between the people in our two cities.

16 April 2012.

 


Martin Toal who lives and works in Manchester asked:
In light of St Petersburg's law to silence gay people, can Manchester sustain Twinning relations with that city and still respect itself as a liberal city? Can Manchester think that an insult to the gay people of St Petersburg is not an insult to Mancunians?

Councillor Sue Murphy, Deputy Leader, replied:
Thank you for your question regarding the legislation, which has recently been passed in St Petersburg on LGBT rights in the city.

Manchester has a deserved reputation as one of the most open and tolerant cities in the world, and we believe that this brings with it enormous benefits. It encourages tourism and investment, attracts people to make Manchester their home, aids cohesion and brings all of our communities closer together. As such we share your concerns about the new legislation in St Petersburg, which we believe is wrong.

Manchester has links with cities across the world, and whilst we would only ever condemn attempts to restrict human rights, we firmly believe that the politics of diplomacy and cooperation are a powerful way of bringing about change across continents and cultures. Our working relationships and partnerships with other international cities give us the opportunity to actively share best practice in many realms of public life, and to demonstrate by example how our approach to openness and diversity benefits our city. We want to see the government of St Petersburg revoke this law, but believe that currently our best way of influencing the government is by maintaining the friendship link. This is something we will keep under review.

Through our friendship links we have a relationship which enables us to address politically sensitive issues such as this at the highest level. In view of the progress of the new legislation I therefore took the opportunity to travel to St Petersburg on 5 - 7 March. Whilst in the city I met with Governor Georgy Poltavchenko and raised our concerns about the legislation which he had been asked to sign, emphasising how much we value openness and diversity in Manchester and the benefits which this brings to our city. I also met with LGBT representatives in St Petersburg and took to them a letter of solidarity from the Lesbian and Gay Foundation in Manchester.

We have now created a link between LGBT groups in St Petersburg and Manchester. Maintaining the friendship agreement will help us to develop and enhance those links - which means we can provide advice, support and genuine solidarity. It also means that we can send out the clear message to LGBT people in St Petersburg that the people of Manchester stand shoulder to shoulder with them. Friendship links are not about governance or politicians - they are about people and we believe that the friendship agreement draws the people of Manchester and St Petersburg closer together. Ultimately this law will only be revoked if the people of the St Petersburg demand it. By maintaining these links we can show the people of St Petersburg that they have powerful allies in their battle for equality with the people of Manchester - where this battle has previously been fought and won.

We believe that it is important to continue our relationship with St Petersburg for the reasons outlined above and to continue in particular to strengthen understanding and learning between the people of our two cities through economic, cultural and educational links. We will also continue to demonstrate by example how the success of Manchester is built on openness and diversity, and will not hesitate to address this type of politically sensitive issue with the city administration in future.

22 March 2012.

 


Nick Solski who lives in Manchester asked:
Please can you explain the process of how cities become twinned. I am working in Kharkov, Ukraine.  One of the sites for Euro 2012 and after speaking to the governor of the city and presenting him with a Manchester United shirt, I asked about the possibility of twinning the cities. He was very positive about this.

Councillor Sue Murphy, Deputy Leader, replied:
Thank you for your question.

Manchester has existing friendship agreements with a number of international cities. Many of these agreements were established 20 to 30 years ago with the purpose of expressing solidarity to cities and their residents at a time when they were facing certain political, democratic or other issues. We continue to work with some of these cities today and base this co-operation on the principle of creating real benefit for Manchester through economic, cultural and educational links.

We continue to receive requests from cities that are interested in establishing a formal relationship with Manchester today. We review these requests on the basis of the potential benefit to Manchester and its residents - with a particular focus on economic benefit.

There are many ways in which cities can work together informally and on specific projects - with opportunities for individuals, schools, organisations and companies to collaborate with their counterparts across the world. In order to enable the broadest possible international engagement for Manchester we are currently focusing our attention as a City Council on the small number of existing formal partnerships and the wide range of informal and project based collaboration with other cities.

We are always pleased to be asked to become involved with international activity and very much appreciate the role which Manchester residents such as yourself play as informal ambassadors for the city.

21 March 2012.

 


 

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