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.
â€œClosely related to the need to understand and learn tolerance is the understanding of mutual respect, or what Quakers have traditionally described as â€˜finding that of God in every manâ€™,â€ said Tony Baldry. â€œI 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.â€
Tony Baldry added: â€œNothing 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.â€ He also went on to quote the queen and suggest that another British value is that of â€œloving oneâ€™s neighbour as oneself, accepting personal responsibility and accepting responsibilities to oneself, oneâ€™s family and the community in which we find ourselves.â€
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: â€œI went to a Quaker school, so I have always taken an interest in international development and humanitarian affairs.â€ In a 1999 debate he said: â€œI am fortunate in having a Quaker mother and a Quaker backgroundâ€ and in a 1985 debate he said: â€œI was educated at a Quaker school run by a religious minorityâ€.
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.