My dear friend and colleage, Gianni Pittella MEP, President of the Socialist and Democrats Group in the European Parliament, spent his time here in Manchester this summer to learn English. As an Italian MEP, he is keen pick up the language and was just as keen to learn more of this wonderful city.
Entrusted with the task of hosting his programme, I organised a range of activity for him to ensure that, by the time he went back, he had seen and tasted as much of Manchester as possible.
Meeting Hosted by the Bishop of Manchester and Multifaith Leaders
I am deeply grateful to Bishop David Walker for hosting a wonderfully diverse meeting with multifaith leaders for myself and Gianni. Impressed by Manchester’s multicultural harmony the last time he visited Manchester, Gianni was keen to learn more about how our communities live and work together. With representatives from the Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu and Sikh communities, as well as from others, the meeting was a true inspiration for those seeking greater togetherness and community cohesion.
Visit To Media City
It was great to showcase Greater Manchester as a media hub as we toured the BBC studios. We peered behind the scenes on BBC breakfast, BBC Sports, BBC 5 Live and more.
Meeting with Tom Waston MP, Labour Deputy Leadership Candidate
With the EU referendum on the horizon, I felt it was important that we use Gianni’s time in Manchester as an opportunity to meet Labour leading figures in order to start thinking about a way forward. Our first meeting was with the excellent Deputy Leadership candidate Tom Watson MP.
Speaking at Adams Day
Adams Day is a ceremonial dinner held every year to celebrate humanity’s common heritage through remembering Adam, a figure that nearly all religions recognise as the father of mankind.
The ultimate purpose of Adams Day is highlight our common humanity amidst our different cultural, ethnic or religious differences.
A ceremonial candle is lit every year to commemmorate victims of suffering across the world. This year we remembered those that died in the Kuwait and Tunisia terror attacks in June. With Gianni as our special guest, he did the honour of the lighting the candle.
Meeting with Tony Lloyd, Interim Mayor of Greater Manchester
This was the second in our series of meetings with Labour leaders. Again, the purpose was to help strengthen ties between the Party and our European sister parties in order prepare for an effective Yes campaign for the EU referendum.
We met in front of the Peterloo Plaque ahead of the 196th Anniversary commemoration of the 1810 Peterloo Massacre which occurred at St Peter’s Field when cavalry charged into a crowd of 60,000–80,000 that had gathered to demand the reform of parliamentary representation.
Meeting with Rethink, Rebuild (Syrian Community of Manchester)
We had the honour of visiting the headquarters of the Rethink Rebuild Society, the hub of the Syrian community in Manchester, to hear of the work they are doing to address the plight of Syrian refugees.
Ultimately, they told of the fact that, whilst all eyes are on ISIS atrocities, not enough is being said of Assad’s brutality against the Syrian people. In addition to the work Rethink Rebuild does for the Srian community in Manchester, they also seek to develop a strategic political approach to the Syrian crisis and to lobby governments to speak out louder against the Syrian establishment.
See more information here.
Visiting Manchester United Stadium and Museum
Proud of our sporting heritage, I took Gianni to visit the Manchester United Football Club Stadium for a tour of the museum and the pitch. We learnt of the history of the football team and visited the team’s changing rooms, the tunnel through which they enter the pitch and the pitch itself.
We were delighted to present Gianni with his very own Man Utd football T-shirt. We did not forget Manchester City, which had a match on the same day.
Dinner With Manchester’s BME Businesses
Ahead of the referendum on EU membership, I organised a small dinner event for some of Manchester’s BME business people to gauge their views on Europe. We had a range of questions – some not even to do with business matters – but it was a good platform to break down the myths and misconceptions about Europe. It was also good to hear what businesses real feel about the EU and, from what we heard at the dinner, many consider EU membership essential to their continued health and prosperity.
Meeting with Sir Richard Leese
This was the third in our series of meetings with leaders. The meeting with Richard was particularly useful to connect Manchester to European Parliament and to see how we could forge a stronger partnership that would work for the city.
Visit to the National Graphene Institute (NGI)
Now this visit must have been the highlight of Gianni’s 3 week programme. The NGI has received a masssive £23 million in EU funding to allow for ground-breaking research into the making and uses of Graphene, a highly versatile material that can be used for all sorts of applications at remarkably low cost.
We were given a tour of the NGI by Colin Bailey, Deputy President of Manchester University, and were shown just how easily a layer of graphene is made from graphite.
We witnessed how graphene could be the next big thing for super-fast mobile chargers and even more advanced forms of technology. Through graphene, we may soon see tabloids such as iPads made of cloth that could be rolled up just like a newspaper. We could see huge advancements in water filter technology that could help to provide clean water to millions around the world.
The NGI is just one example of how the EU has greatly benefited our region. It’s important we recognise this contribution in order that we can continue to benefit from all it has to offer.
1000 Club Event
My office and the North West Regional Labour Party hosted an event on the EU Referendum with Labour’s 1000 Club members, supported by Frank McKenna, Chair of Downtown in Business.
The title of the event was ‘The future of the European Union, how wealth can be built across Europe and Britain’s role in shaping Europe’s future.’
Gianni spoke of how the UK economy benefits from EU membership and the need to fight for the YES campaign in the EU Referendum.