Dining across the divide: ‘It’s so nice to meet someone who has an opinion, and isn’t going to shout at you’


Elliot, 29, Milton Keynes

Occupation Patient administrator for a private cancer treatment centre

Voting record Has always voted Labour, but sometimes as the lesser of two evils

Amuse bouche Did karate for 12 years, but was too young to become a master

Harinder, 55, Milton Keynes


Occupation OSS solution architect: designs the systems that underpin telecommunications networks

Voting record Always Conservative, although he did vote for Blair in 1997

Amuse bouche “Just an average middle-aged family man, apart from the archery and the target practice”

For starters

Elliot I had the scotch egg with chorizo, which was absolutely banging. For main, I had a paella. The portion size was stupid, but I managed to get through most of it.

Harinder I had the bread with olive oil and balsamic. Then the beef wellington.

Elliot He was really chatty, really charismatic. He had this lovely voice – I could listen to him talk all day.

Harinder I love him – he’s brilliant, really entertaining. It’s so nice to meet someone who has an opinion, and isn’t just going to shout that at you.

Harinder and Elliot

The big beef

Elliot Neither of us is transgender, so we couldn’t speak from experience. He supported trans healthcare and protections, the right to equality and protection for the LGBTQ+ community. His issue was the demonisation of women’s concerns about the trans community, which I pick fault with. He said, quite rightly, we should be listening to women: I agree. But on the flipside, if you’re listening to women who say trans people are perverts and paedophiles, you have to be able to say that is wrong. If the concerns are unfounded, you have to say so.

Harinder If you think you were born in the wrong body, you should have the right to do something about it and be treated as the gender you’ve chosen. But I don’t think that can override people who were born as women, their opinion. I said to Elliot, “What about if women object?” And he said, “Well, it’s not a valid objection.” And my point was: you can’t just ride over it. You can’t say, “Your view is not valid.”

Elliot He said, “You can’t tell someone their feelings haven’t been hurt, because they’re their feelings.” I do understand that. But whenever I look around, in any media outlet where people are giving their opinions, all I see on the subject of trans people is hate and discrimination. The general consensus seems to be that their existence is not real and they should stop trying to be who they are.

Harinder I brought up Sharron Davies, the swimmer, and JK Rowling: these are women I’d put up as role models for my daughter. Fundamentally, trans rights are important, but they don’t negate traditional feminist narratives – women have worked so hard to get there.

Harinder and Elliot

Sharing plate

Elliot He’s a first generation immigrant – he was born in Zambia – so he recognised that if he was against immigration, he himself wouldn’t be here. I agreed with him, basically. We did bring up the small boats, and I said, “They’re not immigrants, they’re refugees.” There needs to be a safe and legal route into the country.

Harinder If we stopped causing wars in other people’s countries, that would be a really good start. There is a lot of economic migration, and we need immigrants. We have to make more in tax, with more people working. There doesn’t seem to be any other way of improving productivity in this country. That does have to be controlled, though.

Harinder and Elliot

For afters

Elliot He was talking about the trends in European politics, how rightwing political parties are gaining traction in countries like Italy, for example. He cited loads of different issues with countries that you would assume were forward-thinking but still have their own problems with internal racism, or other prejudices.

Harinder He was very much of the view: Brexit bad, Europe good. I think we’re better than Europe. I don’t think Europe espouses our values. We were in there for a long time and they just took our money and laughed at us.

Harinder and Elliot


Elliot We swapped numbers at the end of the night. He was a really lovely guy.

Harinder It was a very pleasant, very civilised evening.

Elliot I got really tired, and I’d get through half a sentence and forget what I was talking about – not that I minded, but we talked for a really long time.

Harinder and Elliot

Additional reporting: Kitty Drake

Elliot and Harinder ate at the Cross Keys in Milton Keynes

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