The Guardian

Dining across the divide

Can breaking bread bridge political differences?

Interview: Zoe Williams For starters Sharing plate For afters Ananya and Jonna ate at Citro in London, Want to meet someone from across the divide? Go to

The diners: two strangers. And on the menu? Carbon emissions, monarchy and the mess we’re in

Ananya, 28, London Occupation Doing a PhD in economics Voting record Unable to vote in the UK as she is an Indian national, but tends to vote for the equivalent of Labour Amuse bouche Ananya is a certified scuba diver

Jonna, 45, London Occupation Runs a small consultancy business with 25 staff Voting record Has a lot of “left-type” friends, but is “probably more on the blue side of town” Amuse bouche Has been to a football match with Brooklyn Beckham

Ananya He looked like a very fun person – and he was a very fun person!

Jonna I arrived quite early and Ananya was already there. From across the restaurant she seemed quite selfcontained, maybe nervous, yet within minutes we were into deep, passionate and intense conversations about all kinds of subjects.

Ananya I had tre colori, a cheese and tomato salad, for my appetiser, pasta all’arrabbiata for main course and tiramisu for dessert.

Jonna I ate a delicious carbonara, and tiramisu.

The big beef

Ananya When it came to the monarchy, he said: “I don’t advocate for it, but if it’s there, I don’t mind it.” Because I’m not a British citizen, I don’t relate it to my identity. I don’t understand how a hereditary position could have influence over legislation. I’m not comfortable with that in a democracy. As a citizen of a country that was formerly colonised, I’m very uncomfortable that this family’s wealth and position is still intact, and there is no acknowledgment of the wrongs that were done.

Jonna The thing is, I don’t really care. I’d be happy with a British republic. I’m an idealist – I voted for Brexit, but if we had a federal Europe, I’d be happy with that. Her view on the monarchy is that it doesn’t make any sense, it’s just this family that’s got all the money. I know that makes no sense, but I just don’t mind it. Ananya This led to a conversation about reparations for colonialism. I think there should be an apology.

His point was: as an individual, I understand it was wrong, but I didn’t do it. Even if my direct ancestors had done it, why should I apologise? I understand that, but as a nation, it’s a different thing. When you pass positions of power from one generation to the next, you are also passing on the responsibilities of that position.

Jonna I realised how unenlightened I was – I didn’t have good arguments here. Having been in a country that was colonised, she was keen on an apology and reparations, and she saw the monarchy as part of that. My philosophy is that the past is the past, let’s move forward. However, we both agreed that a government apology on behalf of the British people would be fine.

Ananya We both want people to receive a decent wage. We both want a more equitable society. I think policies should be designed in a way that makes society more equal. Jonna She’s really into top-down policymaking. I think policies aggregate over time, and we start from the mess we’re in, and try to get to a better version of the mess.

Ananya On carbon emissions, the global south is bearing the brunt of consequences that were caused by the industrialised nations. Change will only come when the first industrialised nations start to acknowledge that they played a far bigger part in causing the damage. He saw the point, but I don’t know if I convinced him.

Jonna Some of her generation view everything through a catastrophic lens: we’re not going to do enough, we’re never going to do enough. I’ve got people in their 20s who work for me, and they’re thinking: “I won’t bother to have children because the world is going to end.” Humans are brilliant at adapting. We’re technologically brilliant – we’re wealthy enough to invest in green energy.


Ananya I got bit impassioned with my views, and he laughed about it. He kept the conversation going. I really liked that about him. We ended up talking until after the restaurant closed.

Jonna Having a debate with someone who was perhaps more on the left, but not from the UK, took all the tribalism out of it, which was really, really cool. I invited her to come to our house for dinner to meet a very suburban family.