Dining across the divide: ‘I’d move heaven and earth to get to net zero. He’s more relaxed’

November 9, 2023

George, 48, Hove
Occupation IT consultant
Voting record A Labour party member, but says he would have voted for David Cameron in 2010, having shifted slightly in his politics after a spell in the US. In the end, wasn’t able to cast his ballot
Amuse bouche Lived in the US for five years in his 30s, and worked for a company that made cleaning products in Wisconsin, then for the Kentucky state government: “That was a surreal experience.”
Navneet, 56, London
Profession Residential property developer
Voting record Predominantly Conservative, “slightly right of centre”, but did vote for Tony Blair. Undecided about the next election
Amuse bouche On the way to his wedding in Malaysia, managed to persuade his wife-to-be to spend a day plane-spotting at Singapore airport
For starters
George He was waiting at the table when I arrived. My first impression was: God, his glasses are even more intense than mine. He was very polished and well dressed, not a typical Guardian reader. Turns out he doesn’t read the Guardian; his wife had put him up to it.
Navneet The Guardian does come into our house because my wife reads it avidly. I tend to read the Times.
George It was a Mexican place, I worked my way through the margarita menu. He was drinking wine. We had some tuna things, loads of guacamole and some beef – it was very good.
Navneet We talked about our backgrounds, families and interests. He quickly explained he had an air source heat pump.
The big beef
George We’ve removed the gas from the house. Today I’m insulating the loft – we’ve kind of done it the wrong way round. My girls have never been on a plane. I’m not saying we wouldn’t, but we would do it carefully and make a big deal of it. If we were going on holiday in Europe, we’d take the train. He said he didn’t like the way heat pumps look.
Navneet We are about to start building four houses in Kent, and for the first time I didn’t apply for a gas supply – I assumed we wouldn’t be able to get one after a certain date, although the government has U-turned. As a business, we will not be eligible for any grant – the cost of putting in a heat pump will be £12-15,000 for each house, whereas a gas boiler would be about £6,000. We’re cutting our profitability in a high-inflation environment.
George The government U-turns on targets are a shambles, damaging and done for short-term political gain.
Navneet I agree the U-turns were unhelpful, because from a business industrial point of view consistency is important.
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Sharing plate
Navneet Keir Starmer does seem to have got the Labour party sorted out. I like their front bench: Wes Streeting, Yvette Cooper, Rachel Reeves – she’s a future leader, and they need a woman. I would consider voting for them.
George I am overjoyed with Starmer! After that election everyone thought they would be out for a decade, but he’s managed to swing the polls by 30 points. You don’t move it that far just by the other party making a mistake.
For afters
Navneet George would call it a climate emergency – I’m not quite there yet. I would say it is one issue among a number of others for the planet. My children would say it is the No 1 issue.
George It is an existential crisis. I would move heaven and earth to get to net zero. We should get there as soon as possible.
Navneet We can set the net zero target, but I don’t think it’s of any value unless the big nations are going to participate. India has already said they won’t by 2050. I imagine China would ignore it, and for most countries it’s about their industrialisation. George said I was depressing him – in a nice way.
George Normally when you meet people you don’t know you avoid politics. I found it incredibly refreshing to have an open conversation with someone with different views.
Navneet Our differences were nuanced – on a lot of issues, it’s how to deal with them we disagree about. Old-school politics was like that, but there’s been a sea change, led by Trump, and Boris fell into the same trap of being bombastic and making things up.
Additional reporting: Kitty Drake
George and Navneet ate at El Pastor, London SE1.
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This data comes from MediaIntel.Asia's Media Intelligence and Media Monitoring Platform.

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