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Dining across the divide: ‘He struggled to use the word “corrupt” about the Conservatives’ | Life and style


Dan, 29, Swindon

Occupation Software engineer

Voting record Lib Dem in his first election, and once Change UK, but otherwise, always Labour

Amuse bouche Dan has a detailed knowledge of domain name extensions

John, 56, Swindon


Occupation Civil servant

Voting record Tory in every general election

Amuse bouche John is a big fan of playing tabletop battles with model soldiers, such as Warhammer

For starters

John I had Atlantic prawns for a starter, the pub burger, which was really nice, and sticky toffee pudding.

Dan I had a salmon starter, steak and fries, and brownie for dessert.

John I wanted to go in with an open and tolerant view, even though I’m one of the big bad Tories. We’re not all Nigel Farages.

Dan I was expecting someone whose opinions were less open to changing.

Dan and John.

The big beef

John Brexit was our main point of contention. We were a net contributor to the EU, so what was the point of being in? We basically supported the corrupt regimes in the south of Europe: Greece, Portugal. There’s an awful lot of corruption down in the Latin countries when it comes to EU funding. I’m not a xenophobe – I’m quite in favour of immigration. I think it’s been great for this country.

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Dan He mentioned corruption. But there’s no more corruption in Greece or Portugal than in our own government. He struggled with the words, to use the word “corrupt” about the Conservatives. It kept coming back to: “I trust the Tories more with the economy.” He wasn’t a bad person trying to actively ignore corruption; he would just shift his focus to something more positive. It’s a natural bias if you tie yourself to a party like that.

John You’ve got to play the long game with sovereignty. You won’t actually gain full sovereignty like a guillotine.

Dan He was coming from the position that Brexit will be better in the end. It’s hard to argue a negative in that sense. You can’t prove that it’s not going to work out.

Dan and John.

Sharing plate

John The subject where I felt I was educated is the storm that has engulfed JK Rowling. To my knowledge, I’ve only met two trans people. And he said: “You’ve probably met plenty of others; you just didn’t know it.” And that’s probably true. I didn’t know enough about it; I wanted to know what the fuss was about.

Dan He seemed to have taken a surface-level view, that JK Rowling is just standing up for women’s rights, as someone who’s experienced domestic violence. I tried to explain that you have to disregard a trans woman’s womanhood to be able to even say that this is an issue. While I have a huge appreciation for people who have been through domestic violence, and understand how you might have a fear of the opposite sex because of that, it doesn’t mean you get to oppress already oppressed people.

John He knows a lot of trans women, and because of his circle, he has a lot of insights, which I enjoyed listening to. He made a good point, which is that there isn’t really a threat from trans women – it’s the media blowing things out of all proportion. He made very, very strong arguments to convince me that it’s a bit of a storm in a teacup.

Dan He really listened and understood where I was coming from. It’s not just people being woke and hating women. I was impressed at the way he seemed to take it on board.

Dan and John.

For afters

John I think Boris Johnson’s days are numbered, because he’s not particularly well behaved. When it comes to leadership, he’s awful.

Dan There were a few times when he did accept criticism of the Tories.

John He found it surprising that I was willing to turn around and criticise the government. If you were to ask me who I would have voted for in a Conservative leadership election, it would have probably been Rory Stewart.

Dan We both very much saw that politicians don’t prioritise the people who elected them. We agreed that MPs shouldn’t have second jobs, shouldn’t have commercial interests.

Dan and John.


John I’d give the evening 9 out of 10.

Dan It was only when the staff at the bar had their coats on that we thought we should get going.

Dan and John.

Additional reporting: Naomi Larsson

Dan and John ate at Helen Browning’s Royal Oak in Swindon

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