Dining across the divide: ‘Being two blokes in middle age, we did talk a bit about military history’

Doug, 43, Leicester

Occupation Works in IT for a university

Voting record Has voted on the losing side in every general election since 2005

Amuse bouche Was once thrown out of an easy listening wedding covers band. There was a mix-up over scheduling and he wanted to go on holiday

Richard, 56, Leicester

Occupation Barrister, former criminal defence counsel, now employed at the bar

Voting record Has always voted Conservative but is not a doctrinaire Tory

Amuse bouche Has played rugby with Boris Johnson, who is actually a pretty good player, believe it or not

For starters

Richard He was over a decade younger than me. He’d got longish hair and a beard, whereas I’m clean-shaven, but otherwise he looked a normal chap.

Doug I had chilli prawns, chicken and then a lemon tart.

Richard I had mushrooms, followed by fish and chips, followed by a raspberry sorbet and a black coffee.

Doug We came from the same place on a lot of things, but it came out in different choices – not different worldviews, but different choices.

Richard We had the same basic outlook on an awful lot of things – civil liberties, freedom of expression.

The big beef

Richard Doug said: “Why did you vote for Brexit?” and I said: “Purely for the constitutional integrity of the country.” Gaitskell’s speech at the 1962 Labour conference outlined it well and these matters were never addressed.

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Doug He said: “As a barrister, I was very concerned with the EU system being a poor fit with the Westminster model, and a parliamentary democracy that uses common law.” I said: “You know what? You’re right about that.” I’m a big fan of parliamentary democracy and the Westminster system.

Richard Then we agreed the horrible polarisation of both camps has been incredibly destructive. Brexit has become dominated by fanatics. It’s very unedifying and it makes issues difficult to deal with.

Doug He thought Boris Johnson was a fundamentally dishonest narcissistic man, and if Brexit had been managed by someone a bit more sincere, it wouldn’t have ended up like this.

Richard This will sound silly, but I thought: “I’ll vote leave as a protest vote but I don’t think it will happen.” Because I knew it would have some very severe consequences.

Doug I’m pro-European, but I can see his point. He didn’t like the structures of the EU, so he voted in protest. He didn’t do it to put one in the eye for David Cameron. That is annoying, because that is not taking it seriously.

Sharing plate

Richard We’re interested in policing, the culture of the police, the corrosive effects of being exposed to some pretty horrible things quite regularly, and that leading to PTSD.

Doug I have sympathy with individual police officers, but I don’t have a lot of sympathy with the police as an institution. I know somebody who was an officer. In the course of her duties, she saw somebody be murdered. She was obviously deeply traumatised, and her superiors said: “Get over it – it’s the job.” The culture of an institution becomes the institution.

For afters

Richard We found an awful lot of common ground. We talked about the second world war – my uncle, a man called Ken Trott, is one of the few men alive to survive a midair collision; Doug’s grandfathers had gone ashore on D-day. We’re both interested in documentary photography.

Doug We talked about our personal family histories and a certain amount about military history. We have nerdy interests. I’m very interested in the wallpaper of the everyday. I’m a big fan of Martin Parr, his brightly coloured documents of working-class life. Richard’s got a beautiful heirloom camera that came from his father.


Richard I gave Doug a lift home – we shook hands, said what an excellent evening it was, exchanged numbers and parted as mates. It worked out really, really well.

Doug Doing this has been a pleasure. We were saying that we never win anything. He got his picture in the local paper when he was a teenager. I won the Barclays easter egg hunt and got my picture in the Sheerness Times Guardian. Beyond that, I’ve never been picked for anything fun.

Additional reporting: Sarah Hooper

Doug and Richard ate at Nine B Leicester

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