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Dining across the divide: ‘He thinks everyone gets more conservative as they get older’

<span>Photograph: Antonio Olmos/The Guardian</span>
Photograph: Antonio Olmos/The Guardian

Selwyn, 51, Huntingdon

Selwyn
Selwyn

Occupation International sales director

Voting record Voted Labour in the past, but says that, as he acquired wealth, he realised socialism doesn’t work. In recent elections, he has voted Conservative and describes himself as a liberal capitalist

Amuse bouche Discovered his entrepreneurial side aged 15 when he started brewing beer in his bedroom and selling it to his parents’ hippy friends

Matt, 32, Cambridge

Matt
Matt

Occupation Senior demand planner in the pharmaceutical industry

Voting record Matt voted Conservative until 2010, but then switched to Labour. He started moving left after meeting his wife and spending time with her family

Amuse bouche Once played golf with Errol Brown from Hot Chocolate. Matt was 10; Brown was his mate’s dad’s mate

For starters

Selwyn I heard he was into the environment, so I went on the bus to try to reach out a bit. It was bloody awful: an hour and a half there, an hour and a half back. It would have taken 20 minutes in the car. In the end, we didn’t even get on to the environment.

Matt He was younger than I expected – close to my mum’s age. We had a chat about our backgrounds. He seemed like a nice bloke. We both had cod and apple crumble. I’m trying to eat less meat.

Selwyn and Matt
Selwyn and Matt

The big beef

Selwyn There was a huge gulf over taxing wealth. Of the 2.5 million millionaires in the UK, most are professionals who have worked all their lives – they’ve got a house that has equity, and a pension. If you were to have a wealth tax that took money from enough people to actually make a difference to the government coffers, you would need to tax all these people.

Related: Dining across the divide: ‘Some of her generation view everything through a catastrophic lens’

Matt He’s made his money by taking opportunities and risks – that’s fair enough. Where we disagreed is over whether all wealth is earned. I feel there are huge areas of wealth that are unearned that could be a basis of taxation, like the mansion tax Ed Miliband proposed some years ago.

Selwyn My view is that when you have bought your house, you’ve already paid tax on it. So is it right to come back every year and say you have to pay more tax on the wealth you have created?

Matt Look at the Duke of Westminster, who inherited his father’s entire portfolio and paid almost no inheritance tax. Without a smart wealth and inheritance tax, disparities and inequalities continue to be solidified. Selwyn was of the mindset that everyone gets more conservative as they get older and that I’ll be just the same as him once I’ve accumulated wealth. Maybe I’m wrong, but I hope I’ll still see the unfairness of the system and try to make that better.

Selwyn and Matt
Selwyn and Matt

Sharing plate

Selwyn We agreed healthcare should be free, but I advocated that it needs more innovation. The NHS is like a tired old bureaucratic horse – it needs innovation and the way to do that is to bring in companies and fresh thinking.

Matt I’m not against private involvement in the NHS but it shouldn’t be run for profit. I don’t want it to ever end up like the US system, but there’s possibly something to be said for looking at the European models.

Selwyn and Matt
Selwyn and Matt

For afters

Selwyn Universal credit is demonised by the left. But I know people on universal credit and the flexibility of being able to react if you earn more or less from month to month is easier than the old system, where if you lost the benefit, you had to reapply, which took months. It could probably be a bit more generous, but to those who want to work, not those who just want to live off it.

Matt I understand the idea that having one benefit simplifies the bureaucracy. But there are other problems, like the time it takes to get going when someone has to move on to universal credit, missing rent payments, getting into a hole. I think Selwyn’s idea is that people are in control of their own finances, but outside forces can affect people at the lower end of the scale.

Selwyn and Matt
Selwyn and Matt

Takeaways

Selwyn He was like a younger version of me. I said we should come back to the same restaurant in 20 years when he’s in my shoes, he’s built up his wealth and his kids have flown the nest, and tell him he’s going to be taxed on top of everything he’s already paid in income tax.

Matt I don’t talk about politics much with my friends, it’s more about football or rugby, so it was nice to have someone like that to talk to. We were there for three and a half hours. Selwyn would get on very well with my dad.

Selwyn and Matt
Selwyn and Matt

Additional reporting: Kitty Drake

• Matt and Selwyn ate at The Cambridge Chop House, Cambridge.

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