Quaker values are at the heart of what it means to be British, it was claimed by a Conservative politician in a Westminster Hall debate last month. Tony Baldry, the member of parliament for north Oxfordshire, was taking part in a debate about teaching British values when he drew on the Quaker faith for inspiration.
“Closely related to the need to understand and learn tolerance is the understanding of mutual respect, or what Quakers have traditionally described as ‘finding that of God in every man’,” said Tony Baldry. “I have visited primary and secondary schools in my constituency for more than a third of a century, and my impression is that schools are extremely good at seeking to promote mutual respect among pupils.”
Tony Baldry added: “Nothing in what the government propose should be seen as being in any way intended or likely to be anti-Muslim because it seeks to promote British values.” He also went on to quote the queen and suggest that another British value is that of “loving one’s neighbour as oneself, accepting personal responsibility and accepting responsibilities to oneself, one’s family and the community in which we find ourselves.”
Tony Baldry is no stranger to Quakers and the Quaker faith. His mother was a Quaker and he attended Leighton Park, a private school in Reading with Quaker connections. In a debate on the situation in Gaza earlier this year he said: “I went to a Quaker school, so I have always taken an interest in international development and humanitarian affairs.” In a 1999 debate he said: “I am fortunate in having a Quaker mother and a Quaker background” and in a 1985 debate he said: “I was educated at a Quaker school run by a religious minority”.
Other recent mentions of Quakers in parliament include reference, by Jill Pitkeathley, to a briefing prepared by Quakers in a discussion about the role of the voluntary and charitable sectors; reference, by Mike Watson, of Quaker conscientious objectors to military service; and a mention by Patrick Cormack of Quaker meeting houses in a discussion about the importance of the local parish church.