I sent this rather tart letter to The Friend, which they have published
Edward Burrough wrote in 1659 that 'We are not for names, nor men, nor
titles of Government, nor are we for this party nor against the other'
(QF&P 23.11). It is therefore with some surprise that I have learned
that this year's Swarthmore Lecture is to be given by Catherine West, a Labour
MP and member of the Corbynite faction, who happens to be a Quaker.
The Swarthmore Lecture has two purposes: firstly to interpret to Quakers
their message and mission, and secondly to make the wider public aware of the
spirit, the aims and fundamental principles of Quakers. Ms West’s will focus on addressing
inequality, tackling poverty and promoting social justice. As warm words about such
issues are on the lips of politicians of all parties, including the Prime
Minister, a concern for social justice cannot be the distinguishing mark of a
Quaker. This calls into question whether
the Swarthmore Lecture is the proper platform for what sounds like an address
to voters. No doubt what Ms West has to say will be of interest to those,
Friends and others, with a secular and civic concern about socio-economic equality
(see A&Q 34) but whether it fits within Burrough's rubric and the purposes
of the Swarthmore Lecture is less clear.