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Dining across the divide: ‘There’s a sea of white, working-class people who feel totally alienated’ | Life and style

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Geoff, 50, Nottingham

Occupation Barber

Voting record Labour since his late 20s

Amuse bouche Geoff is a tabletop war gamer, and has a YouTube channel dedicated to it

Philip, 68, Derby


Occupation Retired doctor

Voting record Never anything other than Conservative, although abstained in 1987

Amuse bouche This was the first serious conversation between Philip and someone outside his family for two years

For starters

Philip He seemed very friendly, very warm. A lot younger than me.

Geoff We spoke a little bit at the bar. The hotel we were in used to be a hospital, and it’s where Philip did his residency. It was a nice, general chat. I liked it because I was dreading talking about Brexit. There’s this little bit of my brain that is still a dedicated place of rage.

Philip I had pan-fried Atlantic prawns, followed by a grilled pork chop.

Geoff I ate 36-hour pork with chips. It was a bit posh for someone like me.

Philip and Geoff

The big beef

Geoff When he said he voted remain, I was pleased because it meant I didn’t have to kick the table over. We disagreed about Jeremy Corbyn, but at least I didn’t have to kick anything.

Philip I have considered voting Labour in the past, but every time, they come up with a Corbyn or a Michael Foot. They get their knickers in a twist. It’s important that we’re all treated equally – gay rights, trans rights – but there’s a huge sea of white, working-class men and women out there who feel totally ignored, totally alienated. We probably both agreed that the Labour party has deserted the white working class.

Geoff Philip said he thought Corbyn always sounded anti-British and had that slightly bourgeois, only-worried-about-London mentality. We didn’t agree on that. Do I think Labour has lost some working-class areas? Definitely. But I think that’s due to Brexit.

Philip Do you know, I haven’t got a clue where Islington is? The Labour politicians from there always seem to be making these awful comments about people flying flags.

Geoff There were certain things about Corbyn that I couldn’t get on with. I’ve got friends who are ex-military and they see him as somebody who was in cahoots with terrorism. That doesn’t hugely bother me. In a roundabout way he was always trying to broker peace.

Philip and Geoff

Sharing plate

Philip We both support immigration. The population would shrink without it. Anyone with fewer than three children can’t moan about immigration.

Geoff I am pro-immigration, but I do sometimes think we have to make sure we’ve got the right amount of room. I am conscious of the fact that we’re a smaller landmass than France and Germany.

Philip We both think this Rwanda situation is outrageous. I think it’s criminally outrageous, potentially.

Geoff I was surprised at how openly pro-immigration he was. Given the combination of his age and his voting record, I thought he’d go the opposite way. But coming from the NHS, he fully understands that we need the migrant population to keep going.

Philip and Geoff

For afters

Philip Geoff thought some statues should be removed if they offended people. I hate statues. I want them all removed, apart from two: one of Brian Clough in Derby and one in Nottingham.

Geoff I very much understood why that statue ended up in the port in Bristol. Since 1996, they’ve been trying to get acknowledgment that that guy was a git. Still no one pulled their finger out and did a plaque explaining the history. And then he went for a swim, and I could completely understand that.

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Philip I’ve got a hatred of the statue of Bonnie Prince Charlie in Derby. I discovered it last week and thought: who’s this old boy on a horse? He wanted to turn the clock back and have a constitutional monarchy. If I’d had a rope, I would have dragged it into the River Derwent.

Geoff I’ve never heard anyone in my barber’s shop of Philip’s age say: “Rip ’em all down.”

Philip and Geoff


Philip We only brought it to a close because my wife was in the hotel bar. I quite liked him, to be truthful.

Geoff He was the first Ken Clarke Tory I’ve really come into contact with. It was lovely to meet someone from a very middle-class profession, with Philip having been a GP. This will sound really pompous, but it’s nice to see working-class people do well.

Philip and Geoff

Additional reporting: Naomi Larsson

Geoff and Philip ate at Hart’s, Nottingham

Want to meet someone from across the divide? Find out how to take part


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