Dining across the divide: ‘His views are in opposition to everything I believe’

They disagreed on Brexit, immigration, eugenics. Could they find anything in common?


David, 45, Bracknell

Occupation Apprentice electrician and general labourer

Voting record Does not take the Labour/Tory thing seriously: tends to vote for fringe parties and single-issue candidates. Voted leave in the EU referendum

Amuse bouche Was once bitten on the toe by a badger: it grabbed his toe, mauled it and he went to bed “absolutely chuffed”


Vanchy, 52, Reading

Occupation IT programme manager

Voting record Has been in the UK for eight years, but only eligible to vote for two: voted Labour

Amuse bouche Thirty years ago, in India, he played guitar in front of about 4,000 people

For starters

David Vanchy is a charming, charming chap, very knowledgable, speaks about three languages. He’s lived in South Africa, very worldly.

Vanchy I was a bit overwhelmed. He got me some gifts – I felt small that I didn’t think of that. His views are in direct opposition to everything I believe. I had a cuttlefish starter, and we both had a vegetable platter.

David and Vanchy

The big beef

Vanchy I would say 95% of the conversation was about immigration. His line was: our way of life is being impacted because of immigrants. I quoted from a study by Oxford University: the lifetime contribution of an EU migrant was £78,000; a non-EU migrant £28,000. I used Japan as a counter example – they’ve been in negative growth territory for the last 20 years because they’re very resistant to migration.

David We’re all very familiar with the hypothetical benefits of immigration. The costs are legion. Some of our major cities are now dominated not just by foreign ethnic groups, but in many cases hostile ethnic groups. Divided communities. A city that no longer resembles what it was. That qualifies as a cost that outweighs any benefit.

Vanchy There are three things that are most important to people: nutrition, shelter and healthcare. To keep these at a level we’re used to requires the right skills and investment. If you’re going to let emotion cloud that, you’re going to compromise the things people need to realise their potential.

David He views society in terms of a lot of individuals collaborating. I tried to press upon him that that’s only half the picture. Society should also be seen in terms of people who are a community on account of a shared past. They are a product of the same deep, dark forces of genetics, religion, history.

Vanchy I was not getting any kind of evidence-driven counter from him.

David and Vanchy

Sharing plate

Vanchy When Brexit happened, I was quite new to the UK. What I was surprised about was the venom with which they said: “We want to leave.” I just couldn’t understand it.

David We agreed that there’s a lot of emotion. The whole economic thing, certainly from the side of remainers, is a fig leaf. It gives them a rational air. What they really liked about Europe was that it was sophisticated; it was about cooperation; it was a community. I can relate to that, but I don’t want to live in a commune.

Vanchy He thinks European institutions were taking us over, and I said: “In what way? You had a different currency, but you had access to the market. It was the best of both worlds.”

David Vanchy, funnily enough, is one of the few people who I think believes in the economics of it all.

David and Vanchy

For afters

Vanchy I don’t want to paint him in a bad way, but I felt quite disturbed, to be honest. I wasn’t expecting the conversation to turn to eugenics. I asked him if I was worth breeding. He said: “I want people like you to be breeding.” I was like: “I don’t think anybody in this world has the right to sit down and say, ‘I choose you.’”

David He seemed to be suggesting that we have to have immigration because the native populations are declining. So that’s why I brought up eugenics. I was complimenting him – he’s very intelligent. But the idea that, for economic purposes, we have to have immigration is nonsense. In the long term, we should ensure that people have families to the degree that means the population doesn’t dwindle.

David and Vanchy


Vanchy I was a bit taken aback. Nonplussed, if I may say.

David He’s a lovely guy. To be thought a suitable match for someone like Vanchy, I felt quite proud. He’s a very capable person.

David and Vanchy

Additional reporting: Kitty Drake

• David and Vanchy ate at Thames Lido in Reading.

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Zoe Williams

The GuardianTramp

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