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Sunday, June 26, 2022

Dining across the divide: ‘Don’t scream at people outside supermarkets, take them for a veggie meal!’ | Life and style

Bill, 62, Edinburgh


Profession IT consultant

Voting record Bill has predominantly voted Conservative, but describes himself as a “liberal Conservative” rather than “a hang-’em-high, shoot-’em Conservative”. In the referendum he voted leave

Amuse bouche Bill has walked the glaciers of Mont Blanc

Helen, 56, Roswell, Midlothian


Occupation Lecturer in mental health nursing

Voting record Helen, originally from Sunderland, describes herself as “very left-leaning”. In the last general election she voted Labour. In the referendum she voted remain

Amuse bouche In 2016 Helen went on – and won – Think Tank, a BBC quizshow

For starters

Helen He told me he’d just got two rescue cats so I immediately warmed to him. I support a charity that rehabilitates disabled animals that have been hit by cars in places like Romania, brings them over here and makes little wheelchairs for them.

Bill Helen is a far more generous person than I am; she’s just one of life’s good people. She does good stuff.

Bill and Helen

The big beef

Helen It was a veggie place – I had the veggie haggis, which was fab. He had hummus and olives, then the risotto. I’m vegetarian, and think it’s cruel to slaughter animals for meat when we don’t need it.

Bill I enjoy meat. So long as the animal is well cared for, and killed humanely, then I’m fine eating it.

Helen We had a conversation about battery hens. I think it’s appalling – all hens should be free to roam.

Bill It would be better if hens were free range. But if you ban battery farming – which is obviously cheaper – you take away choice from poorer people, who then can’t afford so many eggs. As a liberal Conservative, I like choice.

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Helen I would ban hunting altogether. There’s something unhealthy about people getting dressed up and having rituals and killing something; it’s like some bizarre cult.

Bill Hunting is part of controlling vermin, and animals that prey on farm animals. You want to control foxes, because they worry sheep and chickens.

Helen We have built on land the animals used to run about on. There are urban foxes because we’ve taken their land away – they have nowhere else to go.

Bill There is a balance in nature, and these activities are part of maintaining that balance in the most natural way.

Bill and Helen

For afters

Helen I’m totally opposed to Trident. We need to take a pacifist stance. I’m a member of the Peace Pledge Union. This mutually assured destruction stuff we had in the 80s – “I’ve got more nuclear weapons than you, I can blow up the world six times, you can only blow it up three times” – they just need to listen and realise how ridiculous it is.

Bill If I thought we had the choice not to have them, I wouldn’t. But if we withdraw from the debate we weaken the broadest thing we stand for, which is the western way of life. Not the Chinese way of life, not the Russian way of life – they are not democracies. If we had to defend our democracy I would rather have them than not have them. Trident is a necessary evil.

Helen We talked about nuclear power, too. I know we can’t just close all the nuclear power stations overnight, but instead of building new ones we should put the money into renewables. I’ve got solar panels on my roof.

Bill Great – but we live in Scotland where the sun goes down at 3.26 in the afternoon and doesn’t come up till 8.40 in the morning.

Bill and Helen

Sharing plate

Helen We are always going to have wind and waves – we need to develop a system where we can store that power.

Bill I agreed that the real challenge is storage. I have invested in some companies that generate hydrogen from renewables for that very reason.

Bill and Helen


Helen We had very little in common, but were respectful of each other. The food was good. He said he really enjoyed the meal. That’s how you get through to people: you don’t scream at them outside supermarkets, you take them for a veggie meal!

Bill We live in completely different circles. Helen is far more virtuous than I am. But the easiest thing to do is to sit in your bunker and reinforce your already set beliefs. Don’t. Get out there and talk to people – it’s a vital part of human society, and better than throwing bricks.

Bill and Helen

Additional reporting: Naomi Larsson

Bill and Helen ate at Hendersons, Edinburgh

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