Dining across the divide: ‘I thought, we’re back in the 60s, get in the minivan and fire up the doobies’ | Life and style



Lin, 73, Newcastle

Dining across the divider Lin

Occupation Retired social worker/university lecturer
Voting record Lin voted Labour under Jeremy Corbyn, but has left the party because she thinks Keir Starmer is moving too far to the right; in the EU referendum she voted remain
Amuse bouche Lin is a co-owner of a semi-professional football club


Bill, 70, Morpeth

Dining Across the Divider Bill

Occupation Project manager, retired
Voting record Bill voted for Harold Wilson in 1970. Then he had an election hiatus, returning in 2005 when he voted Conservative as a protest against Tony Blair going to war in Iraq. After that, he voted Tory again, “then Ukip came along and I thought: yeah, let’s go with these”
Amuse bouche Bill once ran the San Diego marathon dressed as Elvis Presley


For starters

Lin We talked about trans issues. I talked about men in prison saying they were women and transferring into women’s prisons; cases where women had been abused. I explained about women’s safe spaces being eroded and how we weren’t allowed to discuss it. He didn’t know about it and wasn’t particularly interested.

Bill I haven’t got a duck in the paddling race for the trans thing. Do whatever you want to do, live and let live.

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Lin It’s all bonkers in a way, like the push to stop people talking about mothers. Now they’re “birth-givers” or “womb-havers” or whatever.

Bill We agreed about free speech – you have to debate the daylight out of it, otherwise you close everyone down.

Dining Across the Dividers Lin and Bill

The big beef

Lin We talked about immigration. I was really affected by the people drowning in the Channel – I felt angry. We are one of the richest countries in the world, and there’s no legal safe route for people to come here. They’re doing these desperate things, paying thousands of pounds to greedy bastards, and taking such risks.

Bill It was terrible – how can anyone say it isn’t? What you’ve got to separate is those people unfortunately dying, and the overall situation. My stance is: no immigration across the board. What good is it to the people in the UK? We need to be more self-sufficient. The NHS needs more doctors. We should be training people who are in the UK now, rather than filching off other countries.

Lin I said I wasn’t bothered about the interests of the UK – I have a more internationalist perspective. Who is the “we”? Does it include all the people who have come as immigrants in the past, their children and their children’s children? Or does it only include white men from up the road in Morpeth, where there is probably a Chinese restaurant, an Indian restaurant, and that’s it.

Bill I’ve worked in Angola, and the Middle East – I’ve seen the disparity between the people who have and the people who don’t. My fear is that lower-earning people in the UK would start sliding that way as too many people come in. Social services cannot cope, the health services are struggling. There should be a referendum on immigration.

Dining Across the Divider Lin

Sharing plate

Lin We agreed the House of Lords should be abolished. He’s a republican, and I’m not a monarchist. And we agreed there should not have been a war in Iraq.

Bill Neither of us like Tony Blair.

Lin I wouldn’t call it common ground.

Dining Across the Dividers Lin and Bill

For afters

Lin We got on to football and I said I thought taking the knee was an important token gesture and demonstrated to fans that footballers don’t support racism.

Bill I don’t care whether they take the knee, but how do you measure if it’s been effective? And is it not getting like a cult? Everyone should be treated fairly.

Lin I asked him whether he would do something if he heard someone being racially abused in the restaurant. And he said no. That kind of “live and let live” approach means he doesn’t have to engage with things that make him uncomfortable.

Bill I don’t believe in getting involved in arguments with people. I don’t want to get punched in the face.

Dining Across the Divider Bill

Takeaway

Bill She seemed to be extreme left in a way that didn’t solve anything. She regards herself as a citizen of the world, and I thought: we’re back in the 60s, get in the minivan and fire up the doobies.

Lin The food was good, but I couldn’t wait to leave.

Dining Across the Dividers Lin and Bill

Additional reporting: Naomi Larsson

Lin and Bill ate at Gusto in Newcastle

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