Dining across the divide: ‘She used the word “snowflake” and I hate that’

The royal family, partygate and cancel culture: can a Tory voter and a socialist find common ground over dinner?

Michelle, 34, Reading


Occupation Primary school teacher and trade union official

Voting record Lib Dem in 2005 and 2010; Labour under Corbyn; voted remain

Amuse bouche Features in Doortraits, the lockdown portraits of Sapna Odlin

Victoria, 47, Ascot


Occupation Trainer of apprentice theatre technicians

Voting record Conservative through the Blair years; leaned Lib Dem, mainly continued Conservative; voted remain

Amuse bouche Phil Collins paid for her equipment when she was at drama school

For starters

Victoria I went in positive. I thought I might make a new friend out of it.

Michelle I was expecting to butt heads, maybe. I don’t do that on purpose. But I thought we’d be really different.

Victoria I had the scotch egg, the cod and chips, and the lemon tart. I ate everything. I’m still full.

Michelle Scotch egg for starter, roast pork for main and lemon tart.

Victoria and Michelle

The big beef

Victoria She’s an absolute Harry and Meghan fan – not a royalist at all. I am very much in favour of the royal family. She was talking about the point of them, and I have to be aware of this, from a creative industries perspective. The royals bring in £1.4bn a year to the economy. Generally they cost us £80m. There’s no comparison. I think she took that on board.

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Michelle She knew all the figures for tourist income, and I can see the argument. But I thought, would people still visit Buckingham Palace without the royal family? It might be better if they weren’t there – we might get to see more rooms.

Victoria Prince William is doing a great job. He’s turning into an excellent young man. Well, I say that – he’s nearly 40. I remember the day after Meghan’s interview, the press shouted a question to William, who said: “We are not a racist family.” And I thought: “I like that – he’s going to start standing up for them.”

Michelle But are the royal family not racist?

Victoria and Michelle

Sharing plate

Michelle We had a conversation about living standards, but it was more about humanity. I was talking about the fact that my mum’s going to retire and I don’t understand how she’s going to live on a state pension. She might have to move to a flat, so her heating bills would be reduced. Victoria and I are both middle class – we have homes, jobs, careers. It’s so interesting what it takes before middle class people talk about things like this: it has to hit us.

Victoria We are looking at people having to choose between food and heating, and I’m not entirely sure I won’t be in that category. We talked about whether Boris Johnson should step in and do something about rising bills. I don’t really know where I stand on that. She was brilliant on energy companies. She said: “I think we should renationalise all of them.”

Michelle I reckon she’s a lot more leftwing than she thinks she is.

Victoria and Michelle

For afters

Victoria I find having a conversation with most young people today, if they don’t like what you’re saying, they have this cancel culture going on. Generally, if they’re under 30, the minute you say anything they don’t like, they have anxiety. And you’re thinking, “We’re just having a chat.”

Michelle She used the word “snowflake” and I hate that word. I find that it’s the older people in my life who won’t talk to me about these things. I don’t expect everybody to share my views, as long as you’re not arguing against someone’s humanity.

Victoria She’s very Corbynite. I would never have voted for Jeremy Corbyn, and I’d never vote for Keir Starmer. When Boris was coming in, I was very pro, but he’s made such a mess of it.

Michelle We talked about the Tory government, these parties that have come out. I found the pandemic so isolating. When the first lockdown hit, you couldn’t have support bubbles. I was suddenly locked in the house with a four-year-old and a two-year-old. It still impacts my mental health now.

Victoria and Michelle


Victoria It was an absolutely brilliant afternoon. I got out of it exactly what I wanted – some really great conversations, a few ideas on things that I’d never thought of.

Michelle It felt as if were still talking as the restaurant staff were turning the lights out. It was almost like going on a date with a friend.

Victoria and Michelle

Additional reporting: Naomi Larsson

• Michelle and Victoria ate at London Street Brasserie in Reading.

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


Zoe Williams

The GuardianTramp

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