Dining across the divide: ‘I was bewildered when she said Donald Trump was intelligent’

<span>Photograph: David Levene/The Guardian</span>
Photograph: David Levene/The Guardian

Alix, 58, Royston, Hertfordshire

Occupation Semi-retired teacher and company director

Voting record Mostly Green, or Labour if there’s no Green – and Lib Dem to support friends who are local councillors. Never Tory!

Amuse bouche As a teenager, Alix cleaned the house of Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones


Suzy, 48, Royston, Hertfordshire

Occupation Accountant

Voting record Labour “maybe once or twice in the Blair years”. Now she’s a member of the Conservative party

Amuse bouche Suzy enjoys historical re-enactment: “Every now and then I dress up as a Norman peasant to cook dinner for the Lord at various castles”

For starters

Alix I’m a vegetarian and we agreed to start by sharing the Greek meze platter, so that was nice. I then ordered the fusilli ai funghi with rocket salad, and the tiramisu semifreddo.

Suzy I had steak, medium rare; then Eton mess. Alix seemed friendly, open to the world, intelligent and forceful, as a woman should be. She didn’t seem to like the idea that people actually want to make a profit from business – if you tax them more, or make them pay a living wage, there’ll be no incentive for them to do business.

Alix She kept saying that taxing the wealthy and big business at higher rates won’t solve anything, whereas I think fat cats should be taxed. It was clear that we were diametrically opposed on pretty much everything.

Suzy I said that the proportion of people who are doing tax avoidance and using offshore accounts is not significant enough to make a difference to the economy. The majority of people are not wealthy enough to hide their money in the Virgin Islands.

Suzy and Alix
Suzy and Alix

The big beef

Alix Brexit is an unmitigated disaster that has done nothing to improve our economy. We’re a small island, not an empire any more – and anyway, we had the veto over EU laws.

Suzy I wasn’t interested in the economic pros or cons of Brexit. My reasons for supporting it were political. We weren’t getting the benefits from being in that club, and David Cameron had tried to negotiate a better deal and couldn’t. It has made life slightly more complicated in certain respects, but you can’t ignore the effects of Covid.

Alix It’s ironic because Suzy was born in Russia and came to the UK, but is against eastern Europeans coming here to work because she believes they’re taking jobs away from young people.

Suzy I went to sixth form college in the UK, so didn’t come for work and wanted to go back home, but I got married and stayed. The country shouldn’t rely on cheap foreign labour. You might want to employ a person with better qualifications and a work ethic – an engineer in their home country, who ends up stacking shelves at Tesco – but that means some young person in Britain will lose out.

Alix I pointed out that British young people don’t want to be working full-time for minimum wage, but I felt that kind of fell on deaf ears.

Suzy and Alix
Suzy and Alix

Sharing plate

Alix We agreed on improving transport. We live in a little market town and public transport here is useless, simple as that. We also agreed we need more electric-car charging points and space for cycling.

Suzy You have to improve infrastructure because you can’t just crowd people into town centres. They’ve reduced the number of buses here and I’ve never used one because it takes too long.

Suzy and Alix
Suzy and Alix

For afters

Alix I was utterly bewildered when she said she felt Donald Trump was very intelligent! Pardon? I actually did the slack-jawed-in-amazement thing.

Related: Dining across the divide: ‘Saying “I’m a socialist” doesn’t get you anywhere these days’

Suzy I have US relatives who are Trump supporters. He was the only politician who actually tried to do something for working-class people. I think if we’d stayed on that topic long enough we might have come to some sort of recognition of the fact that Trump was addressing a real problem.

Alix I said, “Do you think a world leader should maybe be intelligent all of the time and not just occasionally?”

Suzy and Alix
Suzy and Alix


Suzy We had a lovely chat! We have political differences, but we also have a lot of agreement.

Alix She kept doing this thing where, when she didn’t agree with something I said, she rolled her eyes, looked away and changed subjects. After a while that really got on my nerves, but I didn’t say anything. I was very well behaved.

Suzy and Alix
Suzy and Alix

• Alix and Suzy ate at Banyers House, Royston, Hertfordshire.

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