Election blind dates: Peter Stringfellow and Mary Beard


Peter and Mary

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?


Mary Beard

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.

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Media captionPeter Stringfellow and Mary Beard talk feminism

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.

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Media captionStringfellow invites Mary Beard to his club

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.


Peter Stringfellow

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.

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Media captionPeter Stringfellow to Mary Beard: You’re a pretty lady

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.


Watch more election blind dates

Find out what happened when:

Nigel Farage went on a date with journalist Rachel Johnson

View the original article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-40094671

Food blogger Jack Monroe went on a date with Toff from Made in Chelsea

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