Dining across the divide: ‘The national lottery is a tax on the poorest people in society’

·4-min read
<span>Photograph: David Levene/The Guardian</span>
Photograph: David Levene/The Guardian

Brexit, gambling and green living: can two strangers find common ground over dinner?


Mark, 63, Milton Keynes

Mark
Mark

Occupation Retired IT and quality manager
Voting record The original floating voter: last time Mark voted Green; on social issues he says he’s centre or left of centre; on economic issues centre or centre-right
Amuse bouche Won a national motor racing championship a few years ago

Julian, 55, Milton Keynes

Julian
Julian

Occupation Taking a year’s sabbatical from work after surgery for cancer
Voting record Mainly Lib Dem, but in the last local elections he spoiled the ballot paper “because I was so disheartened with everybody”
Amuse bouche In his youth, Julian too tried to be a racing driver, “but I was much better at raising the money than actually doing the racing”

For starters

Mark He voted remain, I voted leave, but I’m not one of these people who thinks the EU is a complete waste of time and things were massively better in or out. For me the two main issues were not having to follow EU laws and regulations that we think are not in our interests, and being able to set our own level of immigration.

Julian He said immigration takes away from the bottom of the pyramid because people come here and do jobs at a lower rate. And I kind of agreed with him, but you’re taking a very extreme view by saying we’re going to cut our freedom of movement. We’ve cut ourselves off from the people who come here and enrich our culture.

Mark I used to be a foster parent, and I have a family member who works in social housing. Many services are struggling and there are a lot of people in difficult circumstances. I can’t see how increasing the population by more than a quarter of a million a year, or whatever it was before Brexit, is going to do anything except make that worse. Immigration should be lower – 50,000 to 100,000 – and based on jobs that are in short supply.

Mark and Julian
Mark and Julian

The big beef

Julian I think the national lottery is a tax on the poorest people in society. As a Christian, I’m not in favour of gambling – I don’t think that’s what we are called to do.

Related: Dining across the divide: ‘As I get older, I’m more militant. I just think: let’s all glue ourselves to something’

Mark I’m a bit biased because I used to work for Camelot. We would see the big winners arrive at the headquarters and you could see it made a massive difference to their lives.

Julian The lottery justifies itself by being good for society, but when you look at who funds it, it’s the poorest in society desperately trying to solve their problems by winning the lottery. I feel that it’s fundamentally wrong.

Mark The sums of money raised for good causes are vast. Some of that goes to modest things – they might buy musical instruments for a town band, or renovate a house that a famous person lived in. And it’s regulated. You’re not allowed to pay on a credit card, only a debit card – that’s to stop people getting into debt.

Julian There are other ways of raising money. I’ve worked in the philanthropic sector for eight years and there is plenty of money if you know where to look for it.

Mark and Julian
Mark and Julian

Sharing plate

Mark On the climate, we agreed there needed to be more incentives to get people to change. Where I live, quite a few people have solar panels and electric cars – but if it’s only 5% or 10% of the population it’s not going to make much difference.

Julian I had a 10-year-old diesel. I couldn’t afford to go electric so I changed it for a Ulez-compliant diesel, with less than a quarter of the emissions, yet my road tax is £300 more because it’s a new car. Instead of sticks you need carrots.

Mark and Julian
Mark and Julian

For afters

Mark I wouldn’t be upset if the royal family were just abolished and had to go and live in an ordinary house and not have fancy titles, though it’s useful to have a non-political head of state.

Julian Look into the royal family and you realise that things like the Duchy of Cornwall make a profit, so Prince Charles and his staff don’t drain the public purse. And he’s done great things with the Prince’s Trust.

Mark and Julian
Mark and Julian

Takeaways

Mark It’s nice to have a meaty, in-depth discussion and find differences but keep it constructive and pleasant.

Julian A divide is not as wide when you meet face-to-face as it is when you meet online. Bringing people together is a great way to create constructive dialogue, especially when you disagree: discourse creates solutions.

Mark and Julian
Mark and Julian

Additional reporting: Naomi Larsson

• Mark and Julian ate at Brasserie Blanc, Milton Keynes

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