Political Chocolate

By John Ellis

When the trees start to turn golden, the Moderators’ diaries start to feature the political party conferences. We visit in ecumenical harness with Methodist, Baptist, Quaker and Salvation Army leaders.


Lib Dems in Conference

The first seaside visit was to Bournemouth for the Liberal Democrats. After their General Election catastrophe they were remarkably buoyant. They had found new hope and optimism in a way not all churches which are much smaller than they used to be seem to manage.


Simon Hughes with Isaiah 35




Revival has certainly come to the Lib Dem Christian Forum. Membership has risen by 50% since May and their annual prayer breakfast had a record attendance of 88. For the first time it was funded by the Party and we wondered whether having a new Party Leader who is open about his Christian commitment was relevant to that decision. The main speaker at the Prayer Breakfast was Simon Hughes, who talked about how being a Christian had made a difference to his 32 years as an MP. He told us of turbulent times when behind the scenes prayer had been a crucial factor.

At the Labour Party Conference, along the coast in sunny Brighton, a steady stream of MPs came to talk with the Church Leaders. One was Ruth Cadbury, MP for Brentford and Isleworth and part of the Bourneville chocolate family. Some of us had other reasons to be thinking of the contribution her family has made to national life as Sir Adrian Cadbury had died only a few days before. His full life included being Chairman of the family firm and a quarter of a century as a Director of the Bank of England. Sir Adrian was a perceptive and invariably gracious gentleman.


Ruth Cadbury MP in discussion

Ruth continues the Cadbury tradition of public service, having served in local Government before being elected last May for the first time to the House of Commons. She also follows family tradition in being a Quaker, one of two new Quaker MPs elected this year. In her maiden speech she explained how her political views were shaped by her religious beliefs and she made it clear to us that on matters of Quaker principle she would vote following her Christian convictions, even if that was unwelcome to the Party Whips.

Such personal encounters are a powerful antidote to the cruder caricatures of our politicians that parts of the media present.

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