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.
Nigel Farage is a leading Brexit campaigner, while journalist Rachel Johnson strongly believes the UK should remain in the EU.
She recently joined the Lib Dems, despite her brother, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson being a key Leave campaigner.
They went into the meal without knowing who they would be meeting.
But did they get on?
Who are you? I’m Nigel Farage, aged 53. Former leader of UKIP, campaigned for Brexit.
What are your political views? I’ve always thought that the UK should be – must be – an independent self-governing nation that makes its own laws, controls its own borders and chooses its own friends in the world. I don’t just want the UK to leave the EU, I want Europe to leave the EU.
How would you describe yourself? I’m a hard-working person, I’ve always had a lot of stamina. Work hard, play hard.
How was your date? It was terrific. She is just great fun to be with.
What was your initial impression? I thought to myself, she’s become one of the most prominent Remainers in the country. She’s left the Conservative Party, she’s joined the Lib Dems. I was pleased that it was her, because I’ve met her before and she is fun.
What was the best thing about the date? Having a laugh with her. She always radiates a certain something.
What was the worst thing? Nothing bad at all.
What did you talk about? We talked about our belief systems and why we’ve done what we’ve done in our lives. We talked about what we do when we’re not working. I think she is very well organised. She plays a lot of tennis and all the rest of it, and I’ve probably done too little of it over the last few years.
What was your biggest disagreement? I think her joining the Lib Dems. I do think it is a bit odd. She has joined a euro-fanatic party and yet she is not really one.
What was her most convincing argument? That business was quite happy before [Brexit], or at least big business was quite happy before. Well, yes, of course, if you’re doing well in life you don’t want any change at all.
Was it what you expected? It’s odd, because normally if you make a big public gesture – which she’s done – it’s because you really believe in something. But the deeper I drill down into the European project that apparently she believes in, she doesn’t believe in it at all. She was saying, well, the best bits about European membership are we’re not in the euro, we’re not in Schengen, so what is it about the EU you really like?
Any questions you couldn’t answer? Would I go out with a Remainer? I thought that was quite funny.
What was your answer? I didn’t give one. I was laughing too much.
Describe her in three words: Real good fun.
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.
Wednesday’s election blind date will be Toff from Made in Chelsea and food blogger Jack Monroe.
Who are you? I’m Rachel Johnson, aged 51, a journalist, author, occasional television presenter – probably best known as the sister of Boris, which is annoying.
What are your political views? It has been a bit chequered. I did join the Tories, but only for a few years and I left the party in 2011. I have joined the Lib Dems. I am very concerned that we don’t just go off a cliff willy-nilly in terms of Brexit.
How would you describe yourself? Open-minded. A bit loud. A bit dominant. I think I am probably a better talker than I am a listener.
What was your initial impression? Surprise. Actually I was quite pleased because I’ve always had a secret soft-spot for Nige.
How did it go? I think it went very well. We agreed to differ. He thinks I’m wrong and I think he’s wrong. We explained to each other why.
What was the best thing about your date? He is an extraordinary communicator. He has the ability to make you almost believe what he says, even though every cell in your being disagrees with him.
What was the worst thing? I think he is an extreme anti-European and I don’t like his insulting side.
What did you talk about? We could hardly avoid the elephant in the room. We talked about Brexit, because he sees me as a crazed hard Remainer, who has lost the argument, and I see him as the architect of the UK’s destruction.
Any common ground? Politically? No. But I accepted there are bits of Europe that it has been [good] that we haven’t been part of.
What was your biggest disagreement? Probably about the importance of sovereignty, which I think was built up as this sort of confected argument during the course of the Brexit argument.
Did he convince you on anything? No, but he is actually well-versed and he knows how Europe works and I learned a couple of things. He says that in France I would be deemed a Eurosceptic, but we’re not in France.
Did you convince him on anything? I doubt it. And I don’t need to either, because my side is not going to win this argument sadly. But he did say that he thinks the sort of Brexit we are going to have is a Brexit that UKIP and the hard right of the Tory party are not necessarily going to like very much.
Would you see him again? Of course, if he pays. No, it’s my turn, I’ll pay this time, it’s very ungenerous of me. Yes, he’s great company.
What was the most surprising thing about him? I think his absolute conviction that I’m wrong. Because I can see the Brexit side of the argument, but I don’t think he can genuinely see any case for the status quo.
Describe him in three words: Voluble, entertaining and surprising.
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