The first time I saw Jay was at a student politics conference back in 2014. We met briefly and I remember thinking he was good-looking, so I followed him on Twitter, but he never followed me back. A couple of years later, I was working for a Conservative MP and having lunch in Parliament when I noticed Jay walking past. I leapt up like a salmon - and he spent a very long thirty seconds trying to remember my name. He was working for a Labour MP at the time and later messaged me asking if I wanted to “pick [his] brains about working in Parliament”. That was amusing - given I’d started working there about six months before him.
We WhatsApped for a while and he was so witty that I was kind of obsessed with him before we even properly met. Our first date was in central London, but at the time I lived outside of the city and the trains were cancelled for hours. I managed to convince my mum to drive me into town - telling her that this could be the man I marry. Of course, she repeatedly brought that one up at the wedding.
We’ve been together for over four years now and married for one, and there has never been a time that I thought that having different politics would be an obstacle in our relationship. I think it would be far worse to be in a relationship with someone who is apathetic — I would find that impossible.
Normally we argue more about religion than we do politics, but the things that we argue about most are the same as any other couple: how can you leave the bed unmade?; It's your turn to unload the dishwasher; can you shut the f*** up on your zoom call? It’s not as if we spend 24 hours a day talking about politics.
Having said that, we do talk about nerdy things like education reform on our lockdown walks, and while it may not be the typical couple thing to do, a regular holiday chat might include discussing what our top three policy priorities would be and what ‘levelling up’ means to us.
During the last election, I was a Tory Special Adviser (SpAd) and Jay was working for a Labour MP. We both worked long hours campaigning for our respective parties - but we could still come home and talk about our days and have a conversation without any judgement or disagreement.
Being a SpAd you have to work almost 24 hours a day and sleep with your phone on loud. People outside of politics may not understand that that isn’t a choice - it’s a career necessity. The week after our wedding, I got a call from Number 10 while waiting on the tarmac to fly to our honeymoon - and had to work five or six hours a day while away. Jay was totally understanding of that - he gets it, because he works in the same field.
Jay has an unparalleled level of nerdiness and has read pretty much every political biography. I’ve caught him watching election reruns for fun - twice - during lockdown and he has a far more strategic political mind than I do. When I worked as a SpAd, I always felt I could ask his advice.
Most politicians don’t care that we are on opposite sides of the political spectrum - they are too busy dealing with actual issues. The job of politicians is to know what real people are thinking. The truth is that outside of Westminster, couples with different political views are the norm. Before you go on a date you don’t ask the other person how they voted in the past few elections. 99% of my friends aren't in politics so the fact I am married to someone who has different political views is completely normal to them. You have to remember that people don’t just get on because of their political views - they got on because of a whole host of other things that they may have in common.
Ultimately, we both want the same things in the world; we wouldn’t be married otherwise. We want a better, fairer society - but we have different ideas of how we want to get there.
I think our marriage is healthier because we are willing to talk things through and are open about how we feel. If we agreed about everything politically, then we might project our disagreements elsewhere. It’s sustaining and helps us with everything; life is far more enjoyable being with someone who is energetic about the same things you care about, even if you disagree.
His speech had a political theme: “I’ll be the Denis to your Margaret, Samantha to your David... and an unspecified number of lovers to your Boris.”
At dinner parties we mix it up between super political people and people who aren’t that interested in politics. We’re friends with a lot of Lib Dems too. Sometimes we will be on opposite sides of the fence but we really enjoy debating so socially it just adds to the fun. In our living room we have a full set of cartoons taking the piss out of past Tory and Labour leaders - we aren’t precious and would keep them up whoever comes round.
At our wedding last September, it was a really hectic time in politics with long days and Brexit debates. We invited people from across the political spectrum: Tory and Labour peers; MPs and staffers. We sat the Tories with the Tories and the Lefties with the Lefties and everyone took it in really good spirits. I’ve got a really sweet picture of both of our bosses together from the night. Just as Jay was about to give his speech half the room started to sing ‘Oh Jeremy Corbyn’ and the other half booed. His speech had a political theme and he said: “I’ll be the Denis to your Margaret, Samantha to your David... and an unspecified number of lovers to your Boris.”
When we returned from our honeymoon, we had a letter from the Prime Minister congratulating us on ‘forming a red-blue alliance’ in these divided times. It’s very precious to us and naturally now lives in the downstairs loo.
In the future if we have children we wouldn’t try and force any political beliefs on them beyond basic respect for other people. Unless maybe they started supporting UKIP, at which point we might have to intervene.
There is an assumption that in cross-party relationships you represent and agree with every one of your party’s policies — that just isn’t true and is why party infighting and factions exist. The world is small and finding someone you love and want to be with who will sustain you forever isn’t easy. It seems silly to limit yourself in this one way, and I think if more people tried it then they might be surprised at what they find.