Dining across the divide: ‘I thought she was going to be an over-the-top liberal’

Dining across the divide: ‘I thought she was going to be an over-the-top liberal’

James, 24, Rochdale

Occupation Student

Voting record Labour in 2017; Brexit party in the European elections of 2019; Tory in the 2019 general election; Lib Dem in the most recent local elections

Amuse bouche James is adamant that nothing amusing or unusual has ever happened to him

Charlotte, 27, Wigan

Occupation Statutory children’s social worker

Voting record Voted Ukip once and Labour twice

Amuse bouche Is in the habit of giving gifts with her face printed on them

For starters
James I thought she was going to be one of these over-the-top liberals, where every statement is a question.

Charlotte Neither of us was what the other expected. We got on more than we thought we would.

James I had shish kebab, mango chicken and some other thing …

Charlotte We basically got small plates of street food, all kinds of picky bits.

James … lemon lollipops!

The big beef
Charlotte James believes in small government, he’s very libertarian. That comes out in a lot of different ways. He went to boarding school, a fee-paying school, so I was giving him a bit of stick. He said, “No, my family aren’t wealthy – it was a school for blind kids. My mum and dad got the local authority to pay for it.” So I said, “How can you say you believe in small government, then, because you would never have got that opportunity?”

James I would call myself a libertarian, but I’m not a full-on anarcho-capitalist. Education is different. I’m talking about where the state intrudes into your life – CCTV, privacy issues, Covid restrictions. The cost when it comes to people being able to maximise their economic potential and get forward in life was too high.

Charlotte I said to him, “It’s not just about us – it’s about vulnerable people.” And he wasn’t having that. He’s a bit younger. With Covid, my life didn’t change much. His education stopped, his social life stopped.

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James I had quite a valuable internship cancelled because of Covid lockdowns. Ironically, it was with the WHO. I felt as if the world had become single track, the only focus was on Covid.

Charlotte In lockdown, with my job, I was still in and out of people’s houses, little ones snotting and sneezing; that was scary. Early on, no one had PPE. We were told to avoid face-to-face work if possible but also: “Don’t wear a mask, because the kids will be scared.”

James I understood that completely. Obviously some people were in a far higher-risk situation than others.

Sharing plate
James I supported leave and I’d vote leave again, but I also think Brexit hasn’t been a good thing for Britain. That’s about the way the government’s handled it – they’ve done it so badly, and it’s caused so many issues for the country, the labour and goods shortages. She didn’t have a problem with goods shortages, because she’s not a fan of massive consumerism.

Charlotte It was funny that we both voted leave. I thought I was going to meet some big remainer. With the labour shortages, wages will have to rise – that was what I hoped to see. I see the EU as a capitalist institution. If somebody’s more well-off, I can see the benefit. If you’re on the bones of your arse, you’re not going to benefit from freedom of movement.

James My ideal world would involve no borders between nations in terms of immigration. I saw the EU border system as discriminatory. There has to be a benefit to being an EU member, and one of those benefits has to be preferential treatment. It’s rare I will fall out with someone over politics, because my politics are so weird.

For afters
Charlotte We agreed on statues what’s the need to take them down? Nobody’s saying their behaviour was OK, but these people were of their time. But then we’re not people with black heritage. If your ancestors had suffered in the slave trade, you might feel differently.

James We’re anti-racist. There should be more explanation of context, but we shouldn’t rush to take them down.

Takeaways
James She’s one of the closest people to my political views I’ve found in a long time. We talked for so long, we went to the pub down the road.

Charlotte We’re a bit nerdy – we’re interested in stuff other people aren’t.

James and Charlotte ate at Bombay Brew, Rochdale

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