What happens when two strong-minded individuals from opposite sides of the political debate sit down for dinner?
To find out, the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme has organised a series of election blind dates for the general election campaign.
Businessman Peter Stringfellow, who runs a gentleman’s club in London, is a Conservative Party supporter, while historian, feminist and TV presenter Mary Beard says she is left-wing and proud.
They went into the meal without knowing who they would be meeting.
But did they get on?
Describe yourself: I’m Mary Beard and I am a professor of classics at the University of Cambridge. My day-job is working on Roman history and ancient Roman history. A few years ago now, I started doing Roman documentaries on both BBC Two and BBC One. It’s got my face out there – for better or worse.
Political beliefs: I would summarise my politics very simply as the maverick left and proud.
How was your date?: I had a good time. He’s an engaging old rogue. He listens. I wish I’d landed a few more killer blows against some of the things on which we disagreed. And I do suspect that some of my friends will think that I didn’t give him a hard enough time on the feminism.
First impression: I was so expecting it to be [businessman] James Dyson for some reason. I had to do a triple take and I thought “Oh, it’s Peter Stringfellow, isn’t it?”
What did you talk about?: We talked about Tories, Jeremy Corbyn, aspiration and taxes.
What did you agree on?: We were both very strong Remainers and think that the EU referendum result is seriously worrying. Both of us want to live in a global world.
Biggest row: Peter thinks that high taxation somehow stamps on aspiration. He does seem to be quite committed to the idea that there is a financial incentive to what a lot of people do. The current social exclusion in this country is so unfair that if higher taxation could solve that, surely that’s a good thing?
Did you convince him on anything?: I thought the place I made the best hit actually was on taxation because I didn’t think that Peter had a very good answer to the absolute blatant unfairness of social division. I think I did rather better on taxation than I did on the feminist issues. I think he’s rather more practised at dealing with that actually.
What about feminism?: We had a long head-to-head without much engagement about feminism, about what women want to do, and how that fits with having them take their clothes off. I think when I meet those arguments I tend to become a bit donnish, perhaps slightly finger-wagging.
Will you go to his club?: I haven’t ever been to a club where women take their clothes off. I’ve quite strong views about that but I’ve never seen it. If Peter follows up the invitation I shall go. I shall attend with some trepidation but I owe it to him to go and see what I criticised.
Best thing: The best thing is that he was prepared to listen and engage and take the argument seriously.
Worst thing: I don’t think his justification about women’s aspirations and [his club] Stringfellows adds up for me.
Describe him in three words: Elegant, intelligent rogue.
Marks out of 10: Oh, I can’t answer that in a simple number because it depends on the criteria, right?
Find out more
Watch the Victoria Derbyshire programme on weekdays between 09:00 and 11:00 BST on BBC Two and the BBC News Channel.
Friday’s election blind date will be Conservative John Whittingdale and Labour’s Jess Phillips.
Describe yourself: My name’s Peter Stringfellow. Actually I’m Peter James Stringfellow. Peter J Stringfellow is how I sign my name. Not Pete. Never Pete. I suppose I’m best known as probably the night club guy. “Hey aren’t you in night clubs or something?” Yeah, that’s me.
Political beliefs: I’m now a Conservative, providing the Conservatives are good for Great Britain and continue to be aspirational.
How was your date?: She was very pleasant, very sweet and very warm, and right from the off I knew we were all right. I enjoyed her company.
First impression: The minute I saw Mary, I was very pleased, because I’m a bit of history buff myself. The first thing I wanted to ask her about was the books on Rome.
What did you disagree on?: Mary got a bit hung up about exploitation [of women]. She didn’t use that word, but that’s basically what she was trying to say. It’s an old-fashioned attitude, we all exploit each other. Not in a nasty way. We all rely on each other to make our world spin around. Footballers earn 250,000-a-week. Are they being exploited, because some owners are making billions out of the actual football? No, not really. Everyone’s happy, everybody’s working and that’s the same as my world.
Did she convince you on anything?: Mary convinced me of nothing – except I like her, but I knew I would like her the minute I walked in the cafe and saw her. Did she change my views? Give her a break, we were only there for 40 minutes or something. But that’s OK, I still liked her for herself.
Did anything surprise you?: Close-up she’s a very attractive woman. I would say, she doesn’t really care that much about her cosmetic appearance. Of course, she cares, but not cosmetically. And I think she carries that as a banner. Look at my eyes, I don’t care about the way I look. Having said all that, she can’t help it. She’s a very nice, soft, warm, [woman] and I find it attractive.
Three words to describe her: Soft, smart and clever.
Marks out of 10: Nine out of 10. I thought it was great. She was lovely.
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