lifestyle

Dining across the divide: ‘He was not a Nigel Farage-type Brexit person, so that was nice’



Danny, 56, Pontypool

Dining across the divider Danny

Occupation Prison, drug and alcohol caseworker

Voting record Previously Labour; hasn’t voted in recent years

Amuse bouche Danny was homeless as a teenager


Jolene, 38, Newport

Dining across the divider Jolene

Occupation Has recently left her job in an opticians after 20 years because of caring responsibilities

Voting record Labour, all the way

Amuse bouche Jolene has recently discovered that she is autistic and has ADHD


For starters

Danny I hadn’t thought about what Jolene might be like, just that as long as we were both nice, it should be OK.

Jolene As soon as he walked in, I felt comfortable. I was expecting some snotty-nosed Tory racist person. I love people, so I still would have been interested.

Danny I’m vegan. The starter had loads of different peas in it. That was stunning.

Jolene I was quite nervous. The waiter said, “I’ll get you a gin and tonic” and I thought, “How did you know that’s what I needed?”

Dining across the dividers Jolene and Danny

The big beef

Jolene He was not a Nigel Farage-type Brexit person, so that was nice. He talked about the old Labour arguments against the EU, from years ago. I still can’t completely understand his reasons. I said: “Tell me a tangible benefit to Brexit” – I never got one.

Danny I voted out on a Bob Crow vibe – the late trade union leader. It’s not about vilifying people who are coming over, trying to better themselves. It’s about freedom of movement driving down wages. The system’s been set up so we’re fighting against each other. People should be angry about the distribution of wealth.

Jolene My partner’s a truck driver, so when there was a massive labour shortage, his money went up. But it was never low because of foreign workers – that was about the government allowing people to be paid crap wages. Then their answer was, “We’ll let lorry drivers work more hours” but he already worked crazy hours.

Danny I don’t think Brexit is going very well, but that’s because of the government we’ve got at the moment. And the beauty is, we can vote them out. In the EU, we weren’t able to vote those people out.

Jolene But it feels impossible to get rid of the Tories, and I can’t see how we’ll get back the money we’ve wasted.

Dining across the dividers Jolene and Danny

Sharing plate

Danny We spoke about the Labour party and how much we both liked Corbyn, how the country missed a trick in not electing him.

Jolene We could see the qualities in him, and why he brought so many young people into the party, which was great. I was still a Labour member in 2020, so I did vote for Keir Starmer for leader. I believed in his promise to unite the party. But he’s done the opposite of that: he’s waging a war on the left. So I do regret that.

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Danny Corbyn seemed a bit meek. The establishment and the corporations needed someone stronger to take them on.

Jolene I’m not completely against the Labour party now. I love Angela Rayner. She’s such a strong woman.

Dining across the dividers Jolene and Danny

For afters

Jolene We talked about neurodiversity, how hard it was to get diagnosed with ADHD and autism, and how, once it’s been missed, you go through trauma after trauma. That was a really interesting conversation, because of the work he does with prisoners and addiction. Something like 25% of the prison population has ADHD.

Danny I’ve seen this in the Prison Service and the army – there’s a lot of ex-servicemen in prison. When I was in the army, there were certain things I couldn’t do, couldn’t fathom. Then I really struggled when I came out of it. My marriage split up, I couldn’t get a grip for a while. To be fair, prisons are pretty good with autism now. In the old days, you’d have just been labelled a nuisance or a pain in the arse.

Jolene I’m rediscovering myself since I’ve been diagnosed. The things I’ve struggled with, the ups and downs, the sensory things – I have so much more compassion for myself now. It’s liberating.

Dining across the dividers Jolene and Danny

Takeaways

Danny I did say to Jolene, let’s not fall out about anything. It’s just my opinions, I’m not saying it’s true. And she was lovely, really nice.

Jolene Generally I feel as if I made a friend. I hope I didn’t talk too much.

Dining across the dividers Jolene and Danny

Additional reporting: Naomi Larsson

Danny and Jolene ate at Gem 42 in Newport

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