Dining across the divide: ‘If I’d had more time, I think I could have shifted him’

They feel the same about the Tories, but not about Brexit – can two strangers find common ground over dinner?

Click here if you’d like to dine across the divide

Dining across the divider David

David, 73, Stockport

Occupation Semi-retired musician and former music college principal

Voting record Always Labour, except once: Conservative in the 1970 general election

Amuse bouche David has just celebrated his golden wedding anniversary

Zahoor (Ziggy), 51, Stockport

Dining across the divider Ziggy

Occupation Security and health and safety adviser for a waste management company

Voting record Has only voted four times: Labour until the Iraq war, never since

Amuse bouche At 16, Ziggy had an arranged marriage to a first cousin, as a sweetener on a land purchase his father was making in Kashmir. They later divorced

For starters

Ziggy I arrived first. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to be late.

David There he was, upstairs in this small restaurant, with a big smile and a glass of beer. My immediate reaction was: “I thought you were Muslim?”

Ziggy I had chicken, with some kind of creamy sauce. I’m from a poor background. In my whole 50 years, I’ve been to a restaurant maybe 20 times, 25?

David I had calamari and risotto ai frutti di mare.

Dining across the dividers David (left) and Ziggy

The big beef

David I made quite an emotional speech at one point, partly because I’m a musician. We tend to have a very European view of culture. It’s partly that the EU has kept the peace throughout my lifetime, as opposed to the previous 2,000 years when European nations were tearing one another’s throats out. Ziggy is an emotional and passionate guy, and he bought all that. But he clings to the view that the current problems are just a wrinkle.

Ziggy I didn’t vote in the referendum, and when the country voted leave, I was mortified. It was almost like we’d lost the war to fascism. I felt devastated. But as time went on, I started to agree with Brexit. We’ve had unmitigated immigration, a free-for-all, and I could understand why people were angry. When you start allowing unmitigated immigration, without creating new schools, new doctors’ surgeries, you’re asking for trouble.

I arrived in England in 1971, aged one. All my life, I’ve struggled with being an immigrant – being accepted in society, being treated differently. My dad put all these Islamic signs up on our house and we had eggs thrown at us. It was like a war zone. I hated it. I find people aren’t racist towards me now because of how I speak, but someone who has just arrived, with limited vocabulary – they are targeted.

David He reads so many newspapers, and takes a broad view on which of them is right. But on this particular issue, he’s swallowed all this stuff about immigrants coming over here and sponging off our public services, and there’s no budging him. It’s just embedded. It makes me feel worse in a way. If I’d had more time with Ziggy, I think I could have shifted him.

Ziggy You have to accept what the general consensus is; as much as you don’t like it, you have to come to terms with it. When you don’t want to face the truth, sometimes it’s hard, isn’t it?

Dining across the dividers David and Ziggy (on left)

Sharing plate

David I think he bought this: there are so many different Brexits and the one we’ve got at the moment is a really hard Brexit. A better government could say: “Let’s have a look at this and come to a better solution.”

Ziggy He’s over the moon, obviously, with all the issues: the petrol shortages, the empty shelves …

Dining across the dividers David (left) and Ziggy

For afters

David We didn’t talk about inequality much, although it was an underlying theme of the evening. I’m fortunate, whereas when he was about 15, his dad sent him to work in a sweatshop. He worked through the night, came home, had his breakfast, then went to school.

Ziggy I was a little bit envious of him. David is from a much more affluent area of the north-west: he’s a Runcorn guy, he’s got a glittering CV compared with mine. He worked for the BBC, he went to the University of Manchester – I’d only ever dream of going somewhere like that. I’m getting more envious as I get older. I’m at that age where I’m analysing everything I’ve done in the past, all the decisions I’ve made, how foolish I’ve been.

Dining across the dividers David (on right) and Ziggy

Takeaway

David I feel like I’ve made a new friend. He’s a very intelligent and thoughtful guy. And he’s no great fan of the Conservative party.

Ziggy We exchanged numbers at the end, because we got on so well.

Dining across the dividers David (left) and Ziggy

Additional reporting: Rachel Obordo

• Ziggy and David ate at Terra & Mare, Stockport

Want to meet someone from across the divide? Click here to find out more

Contributor

Zoe Williams

The GuardianTramp

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