UK Politics

Election blind dates: Tommy Sheppard and Ayesha Hazarika

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Media captionTommy Sheppard and Ayesha Hazarika went on an election blind date

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 blind dates for the general election campaign.

Tommy Sheppard is an SNP politician, while Ayesha Hazarika is a stand-up comedian who previously worked as a Labour adviser to former party leader Ed Miliband.

They went into the meal without knowing whom they would be meeting.

But did they get on?


Ayesha Hazarika

Describe yourself: I was a Labour Party adviser for Gordon Brown, Harriet Harman and Ed Miliband. Now, I am a political commentator and a stand-up comedian.

Political beliefs: I'm a Labour Party voter, and member. I'm definitely left-of-centre.

How was your date?: I really enjoyed it. It was quite feisty, especially the parts on independence.

First impression: I was pleased and relieved when it was Tommy, because I suddenly thought: "It's going to be [ex-SNP leader] Alex Salmond. I don't know how I'm going to get through lunch with Alex Salmond."

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Media captionTommy and Ayesha clash on the issue of independence

What did you talk about?: We did talk about independence, a lot. It was like we were on a roundabout, or down a cul-de-sac. In a way we were like an established couple, going over the same ground again and again, nipping at each other.

What did you agree on?: We agreed on the fact [Jeremy] Corbyn has had a good campaign, that Theresa May has had a stinker of a campaign, that we don't want a hard Brexit, and that in the new prime minister's discussions about Brexit, Scotland and Wales should be included. You could put a cigarette paper between us on most issues, except independence.

What did you disagree on?: The independence thing does obviously annoy me. The SNP is obsessed with the independence question and they always will be obsessed.

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Media captionAyesha believes Jeremy Corbyn will remain Labour leader after the election

Did you convince him of anything?: Ironically, we would probably end up in a similar place on independence. I would say he was kind of agreeing with me that you can't be whipping up talk of having a Scottish referendum now when we don't know who the prime minister is and while Brexit is still ongoing - that we must put it on hold.

Best thing: It was just nice to see Tommy. He ran comedy clubs, and I'm from a stand-up background. We do actually have a lot in common.

Would you see him again?: I think Tommy and I could be really good friends, but I don't think we've got a political future ahead of us.

Describe Tommy in three words: Obsessed with independence.

Marks out of 10 for the date: Six-and-a-half. It was a bit too much about independence, it would have been nice to talk about other things.


Find out more

Watch the Victoria Derbyshire programme on weekdays between 09:00 and 11:00 on BBC Two and the BBC News channel.


Tommy Sheppard

Describe yourself: I'm the SNP candidate for Edinburgh East. Most people probably know me for what I did before I became an MP, which was run the Stand Comedy Club.

Background: Once upon a time I was in the Labour Party. I was a Labour councillor, and a parliamentary candidate in 1992. Then the Labour Party sort of left me, and I spent time building up my business. But with the Scottish referendum I got my mojo back, and I joined the SNP. Six months later, I was an MP.

Political beliefs: I want to see fairly radical social and economic reform, I hate the poverty and inequality that exists in society. I've now come to the firm view that Scottish independence is a vehicle to achieve that change.

How was your date?: Pleasant. Not too uncomfortable. I knew I was unlikely to change her views, but I managed to keep her on her toes.

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Media captionMay 'has had a stinker of a campaign'

First impression:I was quite surprised. I was expecting Edwina Currie, or a former female politician from the Conservative Party. It was a pleasant shock.

What did you talk about?: We seemed to keep coming back to the question of Scottish independence - and whether there is a justification for it.

What did you think of her arguments against independence?: Predictable and unconvincing. She was making the same argument she would have made a year ago, before the UK voted for Brexit. She didn't seem receptive to the argument that circumstances have changed. She was stuck in her ways.

Did she convince you on any points?: Nope. But she didn't set out to try. She led me to believe the Labour Party's in-fighting with Corbyn might now dissipate. I'm not sure I believe that having witnessed it, but she seemed pretty convinced, and she would be better placed to know about that - so I feel better informed.

Did you change her mind?: Not in the slightest. I don't think she's the convincing type.

Common ground: We had common ground against the Tories. The whole sort of attack on the welfare state - their agenda on benefits, social care.

Describe her in three words: Feisty, articulate, blinkered.

Marks out of 10 for the date: It's not something I would choose to do normally, but it was a pleasant way to spend an hour. I'd give it a six.


Watch more election blind dates

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Strip club owner Peter Stringfellow went on a date with historian Mary Beard

Conservative politician John Whittingdale went on a date with Labour's Jess Phillips

Businesswoman Gina Miller went on a date with former UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom

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