Dining across the divide: ‘The climate is changing, but I doubt it is man-made’ | Life and style

Neal, 59, Isle of Man


Occupation Retired IT consultant

Voting record Neal’s first vote was for the SDP in 1983, since when he has usually voted Labour. He describes himself as “a hardcore remainiac”

Amuse bouche He has raced in the Isle of Man TT

Jørgen, 58, Isle of Man


Occupation Dentist

Voting record Jørgen is from Denmark and lived in Germany for many years. He voted for liberal democrat parties in both countries. He has been on the Isle of Man for only six months, and describes himself as centre-right

Amuse bouche He appeared in the magazine Billed-Bladet – roughly like Denmark’s Hello! – because he was at a wedding of a semi-famous friend, and his wife was wearing a kimono

For starters

Neal We were both prepared to be friendly, and stayed friendly the whole time. It was a pretty convivial evening.

Jørgen I wouldn’t say it was love at first sight, but we had a good bond. We talked about face masks. I think the rules stray into the personal rights of people. The blue and white masks were designed against bacteria. Those masks last for roughly half an hour, because they get wet and the pores get bigger. So they don’t work that well against bacteria – and viruses are so small they can get through.

Neal I was surprised about someone who works in a medical area seeming to suggest the holes in the masks are bigger than the virus. The virus isn’t a free-floating thing: it resides in water droplets, and the masks stop the droplets.

Jørgen and Neal

The big beef

Neal The climate does change over geological time, but the changes we have seen in the last 100, 200 years have to be down to human activity.

Jørgen There is too much consensus, no opposing views. The climate is changing, but I’m doubting it is man-made. In hindsight, we often see that 20, 40 years ago we were wrong. A bit like cholesterol and butter and all those things; 20 years ago, they were the most dangerous things you could put into your body; now the same scientists are saying: “Sorry, we miscalculated, it’s good for you.”

Neal Neither of us is a climate scientist, so our perspectives have to come from an emotional response to what we read and what is in the culture.

Jørgen I’m sceptical. I rethink, and doubt, even my own actions. And I’m in favour of personal freedom. I want to have my thoughts: drive my car, eat my meat, make bad jokes about certain groups of people. I don’t want to offend people, but I want the right to offend.

Jørgen and Neal

Sharing plate

Neal You see on a daily basis how the UK has become smaller and less influential because of what it has done to itself. Brexit is a national tragedy.

Jørgen We agreed about Brexit. I’m in favour of the European Union. It’s a big bureaucratic monster where it is difficult to have influence, but it is a good rallying point for Europe. But …

Jørgen and Neal

For afters

Jørgen … countries should have the right to control immigration, and you should only be able to go to a foreign country if you have a job there. The European Union is too lenient.

Neal Europe needs an influx of people because of the demographic situation. I would say Jørgen is a “Fortress Europe” person. His issue is European culture and values compared with Africa and the Middle East.

Jørgen I see us in Europe with a more Christian background and heritage, and if you come to Europe from outside you should accept these values, like equality of men and women, freedom of religion. I see some who don’t want to agree with those values.

Neal That sounded to me like quite old-school racist talk, tarring people who are non-European with a pretty broad brush.

Jørgen and Neal


Jørgen Without discussion, without different opinions, there would be no progress. You need disagreement, because you are forced to defend your opinions, and maybe form new ones. It was a very nice evening, but too short.

Neal People mostly don’t like confrontation. So it’s unusual to deliberately focus on those things, which was healthy. It was also good to be able to separate these existential political matters from the human being you are sharing a glass of wine with. But because we really exposed ourselves by the end, I was thinking: “Yeah, there are some aspects of you I am not comfortable with.”

Additional reporting: Naomi Larsson

Neal and Jørgen ate at Épernay in Douglas.

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