Dining across the divide: ‘I expected him to be vegetarian,


Joe, 23, London

Portrait of Joe

Occupation Digital consultant, currently introducing new IT systems to prisons

Voting record Labour by default, Lib Dem tactically

Amuse bouche He’s always done the Guardian quiz with his parents – in bed on a Saturday morning when he was a kid, and now on a family video call. Their highest score is 12/15

Rory, 34, London

Portrait of diner Rory

Occupation Architect

Voting record Labour, but “might go Green if Keir keeps playing it too cool”

Amuse bouche He used to live in the Canary Islands and thinks if the climate gets any hotter we should adopt the siesta

For starters

Joe We ate loads – the best thing was fried cheese in a sweet olive sauce.

Rory The salmon was next-level. The chef came out and shook our hands, and we told him it was absolutely fantastic.

Joe We got on well. I expected him to be vegetarian, which was probably unfair.

Rory I think Joe expected me to turn up and dig into him, fists out immediately! He’s great, very easy to talk to, curious and inquisitive. We got the tube back together, so the conversation continued until we got to south London.

Portrait of Diners Joe and Rory in the restaurant

The big beef

Joe It’s so easy for those in power and the rightwing press to make a mockery of climate protests. I’m sympathetic to the cause, and if I’m annoyed I worry that people who are on the fence will be driven away. If I was a Tory strategist, I’d say, “Let’s make these inconvenient green protest groups and the Labour party seem like the same thing. We’ll say, ‘Keir Starmer doesn’t want you to drive your car.’” I ended up saying to Rory, “If your climate tactics end up with us having another five years of Tory government, how will you forgive yourself?” His focus is above that, because of the scale of the problem.

Rory A lot of Joe’s views were about how protests are presented in the media, but it’s not necessarily about winning hearts and minds. A lot of people are onboard with the climate crisis message – but that’s not very useful: what you need to do is persuade the head of Shell, and put pressure on those in power.

Joe The example he gave was: if someone glues themself to the road, they’ve got to get specialist police out, have lawyers present, that person gets their day in court … It’s about clogging up the system, taking up resources, and hoping the bill gets bigger and bigger. I found that really interesting.

Portrait of diner Joe

Sharing plate

Joe Rory is aware that there’s a level of privilege in being able to engage in protests like this; not everyone has the time to protest, or the money to shop sustainably. My friends said, “You have to stop going on about Binky and Mimsy from Clapham throwing soup at a painting” – they’re sick of me sounding like a grumpy old man.

Rory People live the morality they can afford. If you have free time to come down and protest you can, but if you’re a single parent, you don’t have that luxury. So XR [Extinction Rebellion] is a lot of people who are retired and white.

Portrait of Diners Joe and Rory in the restaurant

For afters

Joe We had an interesting discussion about universities. He was saying university should be a safe space to say and do anything, and make mistakes as you’re coming of age. I agree, but I graduated last summer and that was not my experience. There is a prevailing “correct” opinion, and we would see on a small scale what happens on a national scale: witch-hunts and cancel culture. One individual you’d never even met would be the talk of uni because they’d said something controversial.

Rory Again, I think Joe’s viewpoints on woke culture were about what he’s seen in the media – that very showboaty thing of people saying how virtuous they are. I think the question is, what is woke culture? It’s a form of criticism, untying the underlying assumptions behind something. Rather than buying a diamond that comes from child exploitation in Africa, why wouldn’t I get a lab-grown diamond when it’s exactly the same thing?

Portrait of diner Rory with blurry image of diner Joe


Joe I realise now that my position on protest comes from my political anxiety outweighing my climate anxiety. I can’t deal with the prospect of another Tory election victory. I didn’t get to vote in the EU election – I was only 16. It feels like my generation have been royally screwed over.

Rory One thing I took away from this was the importance Joe places on media and newspapers, and how much they affect the conversations about people’s lives, and maybe in some way I’d been a bit dismissive of that.

Smiling portrait of diners Joe and Rory

Additional reporting: Kitty Drake

Joe and Rory ate at Cinder in London

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