Dining across the divide: ‘I’m almost chronically anxious about the environment – he thinks everything will work out in the end’

Dining across the divide: ‘I’m almost chronically anxious about the environment – he thinks everything will work out in the end’

Jon (left) and Nick

Green issues, tax, the pandemic: is there anything these two strangers agree on?

Jon, 37, Hailsham, East Sussex


Occupation Systems consultant

Voting record Has voted many different ways, including spoilt ballots

Amuse bouche Also makes bespoke barbecues

Nick, 43, Hailsham


Occupation Technical support and software testing

Voting record Nick is a member of the Labour party, but votes Lib Dem tactically

Amuse bouche Nick is a motorbike enthusiast who did motocross jumps on dirt tracks, before he became a father

For starters

Jon He’s a really nice guy – he walked in smiling.

Nick He reminds me of one of my friends – positive outlook, laid-back.

Jon I had pig cheeks, then steak and chips.

Nick I ate a hummus starter with pitta bread, then I had a vegan sharing dish.

Jon He was funny – he had a sharing dish but I didn’t want to share it.

Jon and Nick

The big beef

Nick I think the differences between us stem from the difference in our personalities. I’m a very cautious person, almost chronically anxious, whereas he seems quite unfazed by things. He thinks everything will work out in the end.

Jon When we talked about resilience, I think maybe the differences started with really different experiences at school. It’s just fun, isn’t it? You hang out with your friends and you finish at 3pm – it’s like a dream job.

Nick I obsess over certain things and the environment is one of them. I said, “I’m really quite terrified, for my son, for his future.” In terms of views, I’m not far off Extinction Rebellion. I have a high level of anxiety about this.

Jon I did say to him, “If Insulate Britain lay down in front of my truck, they could be a speed bump, for all I care.” I probably wouldn’t run them over, but I would say, “You have to move, I’ve got a job to do.” You can glue yourself to something, but not in the road – it just costs people their time and money. I think he understood – I’m not saying it because I disagree with them, but the best way to get people on board is to collaborate.

Nick We’re over 400 parts per million of CO2 which is just unprecedented. I’d like my generation to maybe be a bit more anxious and depressed, like me.

Jon I’m sure the scientists will come up with something. Fifteen years ago we didn’t have iPhones. And now they’re in everyone’s pockets.

Jon and Nick

Sharing plate

Jon I think everyone should pay tax at the same rate. He did make some very valid points – that if you were taking less off the people at the top, you’d be taking more off people at the bottom. It did change my view a bit. It might be a bit harder to implement than I thought.

Nick In talking to him, I quickly realised he earns a lot more than me, so obviously he’s paying a larger share of his income in tax, despite all the accountant tricks he talked about.

Jon We didn’t actually discuss what tax should be spent on. I just had this top-line idea and thought I could probably work out the detail later on. But talking to him, it felt like there were quite a lot of details.

Nick I pointed out that if you’ve got someone on a low-paid job, bringing in 10 grand a year, they’re within the personal allowance. If suddenly you have a flat rate of 10-20%, they could be losing £2,000 a year and that, to someone who was struggling, would be disastrous.

Jon and Nick

For afters

Jon It’s not good that many people died in the pandemic. But being furloughed allowed me to have two months off to start my other business. We had a baby during lockdown; the toughest thing for me was keeping my mother and my mother-in-law away.

Nick I was very anxious during Covid, following the statistics every day, and he probably wasn’t. My reason was that I knew you could have the virus asymptomatically, so I was worried about passing it on to someone who was vulnerable. I think he just wanted to live his life and get on with it.

Jon and Nick


Jon We generally got on. We’re going to go for a beer at some point in the future – I took his number. We walked back together as well.

Nick He runs a successful business, he’s very hard-working, he deserves everything he gets. But I think he just looks at how it went for him and thinks, “Why can’t other people just be more like me?”

Jon and Nick

Additional reporting: Sarah Hooper

Jon and Nick ate at B12 Bar & Kitchen in Hailsham

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