Dining across the divide: ‘I enjoyed the conversation. That’s not to say I changed my mind’

Bhupendra, 67, High Wycombe


Occupation Retired pharmaceutical industry executive

Voting record Always Lib Dem. Bhupendra describes himself as economically right of centre, socially left of centre

Amuse bouche He calculates that he flew 1.3m miles for work. Now he is enjoying learning to live on the ground

Joanne, 55, Bourne End, Buckinghamshire


Occupation Homeopath and craniosacral therapist

Voting record Always Labour, and remain in the referendum. Joanne describes herself as “quite left”

Amuse bouche She spent two years in Canada, living and working with the Cree Indigenous people

For starters

Joanne We had a bit of a chat about our backgrounds. It was very civil.

Bhupendra We had an amiable conversation, agreeing on some issues, disagreeing on others.

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Joanne We talked about Priti Patel, because she is from the same background as he is. We have no love for her – it baffles me how she can be so right wing, given her background.

Bhupendra I am a Ugandan Asian – we were thrown out by Idi Amin 50 years ago. Priti is unfortunately ruining our good name.

Joanne and Bhupendra

The big beef

Bhupendra In the past, when humans got injured or ill, they developed the ability to heal themselves with plants. Through trial and error, they said: this plant is good for headaches, or whatever. That’s how it evolved: traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurvedic medicine in India, and later, in the west, homeopathy. It is fine, up to a point, if you want to do it, but there is no evidence for it.

Joanne Samuel Hahnemann invented homeopathy in Germany in the 1800s. The basic idea is like treating like; what makes you bad can make you better.

Bhupendra What’s happened in the last few hundred years is the evolution of what we call the scientific method, which has delivered products and benefits for humanity that are obvious. It relies on robust evidence, placebo-controlled trials, etc. That is my personal training, having spent a lifetime in pharmaceuticals.

Joanne The dilution process happens because the water has memory – that’s what we work with. And the body just needs a trigger: things that will create an immune response.

Bhupendra I wasn’t surprised when she said there was no funding to do research to advance homeopathy. No one is going to do that unless you provide your funders with clear evidence of benefits. You can’t do that with homeopathy.

Joanne and Bhupendra

For afters

Joanne I am not an anti-vaxxer – I am pro-choice. But I have never gone for vaccines. I believe my own immune system will deal with an infection. I’ve just done a test after finally getting Covid in November, and I have really strong antibodies. I was poorly for six days, but the cough went away with homeopathy. The backache was the worst, but rhus tox [a homeopathic remedy derived from poison ivy] sorted that out. My son had to be vaccinated for his job, and my husband because he travels. It’s up to them.
Bhupendra This is a pandemic, and we live in a society, so all of us have a responsibility to protect ourselves and everyone else.

Joanne and Bhupendra

Sharing plate

Bhupendra We agreed on Brexit, immigration and the royal family. Why are we hanging on to an institution that doesn’t have any meaning – privilege on the basis of genetics. We are an advanced, technological, rich country. Why are we stuck to such a medieval approach?

Joanne Neither of us is a fan of the royal family, but I think we disagreed on what would be the alternative. I wouldn’t want Boris Johnson or Tony Blair or any of them as head of state – that would be frightening. So I just think, reduce the royal family, have the head of state and a wife or husband, and leave it at that. All the hangers-on? No, I don’t think so.

Joanne and Bhupendra


Bhupendra I enjoyed the conversation. You learn about people, perspectives and points of view. That’s not to say I changed my mind.

Joanne I was brought up to debate. We listened to each other, we both enjoyed it … Well, unless he’s got something else to say. If he disses me, I take everything back!

Joanne and Bhupendra

Additional reporting: Naomi Larsson

Bhupendra and Joanne ate at Riverside Restaurant, Compleat Angler in Marlow, Buckinghamshire.

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