Dining across the divide: ‘If we had been on a train, we wouldn’t have spoken – but we had so much in common’


Russell, 37, London

Occupation College lecturer in British and European politics

Voting document Has voted in 5 elections for 3 completely different events, primarily based on who appeared finest on the day, not tribal loyalty

Amuse bouche Ran into Jacob Rees-Mogg in a Home of Commons bathroom and satisfied him they shared a bottle of wine at a Tory convention. Russell has by no means been to a Conservative convention


Zaf, 33, London

Occupation Director of analytics at a big FTSE 100 agency

Voting document Normally Labour

Amuse bouche As an alternative of a midlife disaster, is having a hipster life disaster and fascinating with moustache wax and fixie bikes

For starters

Zaf I had a crab salad and a hen of the woods, which is a mushroom that’s purported to style like rooster. It did, vaguely. It tasted extra like mushroom, however I like mushrooms.

Russell I had monkfish with – what’s that fancy ham referred to as? – Parma ham. Zaf was affable and pleasant – we acquired on like a home on hearth.

Zaf I used to be somewhat intimidated as a result of he has a PhD in political science. However we acquired on insanely effectively.

Russell and Zaf

The large beef

Russell My concern over large-scale immigration is that it fuels the far proper. I don’t assume it modifications the nation or the tradition. But when it’s too quick, we’re going to finish up handing Tommy Robinson the keys to Downing Road. It results in the host nation changing into actually protectionist and nationalist. And I don’t assume that’s distinctive to Britain. If there was fast immigration into Japan or India, the identical factor would occur.

Zaf The rhetoric proper now’s harmful. I’m a British Asian, the kid of first-generation immigrants, and my dad’s from east Africa, the identical diaspora as Priti Patel’s father. It’s no coincidence that these policymakers are Asian; it’s the primary entrance of legitimacy. I can’t see how they’d be capable to take such a hardline stance in the event that they had been white.

Russell I believed he agreed with open borders, but it surely was extra difficult than that. We each assume the present system is damaged, and must be considerably reformed to accommodate refugees fleeing conditions that we have now induced. We talked in regards to the full catastrophe of Afghanistan, and the way our authorities screwed it up. In fact we must always settle for Ukrainian refugees, however why don’t we have now the identical compassion in the direction of individuals who aren’t white?

Zaf We’ve to determine a official, authorized route for folks to use for asylum earlier than we begin shutting off different routes. I’ve expertise in battle areas, and I’ve frolicked with households who needed to flee when the Taliban first invaded and when the Russians invaded. With out exception, all the household doesn’t make it. They lose a sister, a mom. At what level in that journey had been they meant to use on-line? Till these routes are established, we are able to’t be turning away folks.

Russell and Zaf

Sharing plate

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Russell We come from very completely different cultural backgrounds, and completely different non secular and ethnic backgrounds. We ended up agreeing that generally a warfare is preferable to not intervening. Together with his expertise in Kabul and mine of working with Nato, we thought we’d come from completely completely different sides.

Zaf Bizarrely, we agreed on the idea of humanitarian army intervention. Once I was in Afghanistan, we might see the positives instantly. I used to be capable of rent ladies, I might see the impression domestically. As quickly as we left, the writing was on the wall.

Russell and Zaf

For afters

Russell We mentioned imperial nostalgia and whether or not that knowledgeable Brexit. He was saying that within the former colonies there’s numerous imperial nostalgia, however we by no means speak about it. However we are able to’t change the empire, we are able to’t change Brexit. We each have the angle that what’s executed is completed – we’ve acquired to play the playing cards we’ve been dealt and transfer on.

Zaf The purpose I put to him, which he agreed on, is why are we not taught in regards to the empire in colleges? Then it defeats racism on the root, as a result of in the event you’re extra conscious of how Britain was established, you’re a lot much less prone to decide different cultures as alien or overseas after they’re a part of your story.

Russell and Zaf


Russell If we had been on a practice, we wouldn’t have spoken. But it turned out that we had a lot in widespread. It’s not within the realm of huge politics that British folks can reconcile. It’s within the little on a regular basis issues. We each love Greggs and Alan Partridge.

Zaf It was extra like a Blind date than Eating throughout the divide. I acquired his quantity, and we’re going to fulfill up.

Russell and Zaf

Further reporting: Kitty Drake

Russell and Zaf ate at The Chelsea Pig in London.

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