Dining across the divide: ‘I thought we’d have a couple of Peronis – he launched into the Grey Goose’

<span>Jeremy (left) and Tom. All photographs: Teri Pengilley/The Guardian</span><span>Photograph: Teri Pengilley/The Guardian</span>
Jeremy (left) and Tom. All photographs: Teri Pengilley/The GuardianPhotograph: Teri Pengilley/The Guardian

Jeremy, 61, London

Occupation Cello-maker

Voting record Describes himself as “very far left of centre”, but living in the affluent borough of Richmond has voted tactically for the Lib Dems to try to beat the Conservatives

Amuse bouche Jeremy has a glider pilot’s licence. He has some political differences with some of the other members of his gliding club

Tom, 27, London

Occupation Construction manager

Voting record Tom describes himself as small-c conservative, and voted Tory once, but is now politically homeless as he thinks they – and the Labour party – are self-serving

Amuse bouche Towards the end of the pandemic, Tom travelled to Jordan and hitchhiked to Petra in an ice delivery van

For starters

Jeremy We looked at the restaurant and were both like: “Bloody hell, this is posh.” We ordered single measures of vodka just to calm ourselves down. Then a bottle of house red. I had squid and beef massaman. Tom was eloquent, intelligent, just a lovely young man.

Tom I was a bit taken aback: I thought we’d just have a couple of Peronis, but no, he launched into the Grey Goose. I was kind of expecting a hemp-shirt-wearing liberal, but he wasn’t like that. He’s a really nice guy, thoughtful and interesting, about my parents’ age.

Jeremy He told me how he got into grammar school in Kent, I told him about my upbringing in Richmond, and that I was part of the first generation to go to a comprehensive school.

Tom He’s a cello-maker; I trained as a carpenter. We bonded over chisels and dovetail joints and mortise and tenons.

The big beef

Jeremy We didn’t agree at all on university and tuition fees.

Tom My view is that tuition fees aren’t necessarily a bad thing, because they force you to consider the economic payback of what you’re going to study. So you don’t end up wasting four years doing something purely theoretical.

Related: Dining across the divide: ‘I thought, Oh God, I hope I don’t get a dyed-in-the-wool Scottish Tory’

Jeremy What if you come from a working-class background? I remember a kid at my school who was so clever, but he went straight to work in a factory at 16. Tom has a debt of £60,000. I got a grant so I owe nothing. If I’d had to pay for it, I wouldn’t have gone to the London College of Furniture.

Tom Nothing’s for free. Either the state pays for it out of everyone’s taxation, or the people who actually go – and get blind drunk for four years and turn up to lectures once a week – bear most of the costs. I think that’s fairer. I’m pro T-levels and apprenticeships – they provide a better start in life.

Jeremy There must be room for sociology, philosophy, every single facet of human knowledge. Look at the state of the world. What did Donald Trump ever learn? Nothing.

Sharing plate

Jeremy We completely agreed that what Israel is doing in Palestine is mad. We don’t understand why no one is listening to [UN secretary general] António Guterres; they’re not listening to anyone.

Tom Their actions are completely disproportionate and are destabilising the region further, probably breeding more hatred against Israel.

For afters

Jeremy We disagreed about the royal family. They’re a complete waste of time. I’m not concerned with the individuals, but the whole organisation. When the Queen died, they should have constitutionally got rid of themselves.

Tom To get rid of our monarchy would be a substantial loss to our culture. And the continuity of that family over centuries – it’s fascinating and acts as the sort of backbone of the nation.

Jeremy I’m half Dutch, half Czech. I remember the silver jubilee in 1977 and thinking, “What is wrong with the English? They’re super rich, they have nothing to do with your lives, and you’ve closed off the road for a street party.” I’ve still got the original pressing of Never Mind the Bollocks.


Jeremy After we’d finished one bottle of wine, we ordered another. We just talked and talked and talked. It’s very interesting to meet someone with a different point of view when they have a whole rationale behind it.

Tom I think our differences are just a small percentage of our overall worldviews and that we have more in common. When you’re sitting at a table with a Grey Goose in one hand, a red wine in the other, stuffing down a mushroom arancini, actually, these dichotomies don’t really exist.

Additional reporting: Kitty Drake

• Jeremy and Tom ate at Rock & Rose in Richmond, London

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