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- Virgin Trains has announced that it no longer stocks the Daily Mail.
- It said the paper’s editorial stance on immigration and LGBT issues means it is incompatible with the company’s “beliefs.”
- The company, 51% controlled by Richard Branson, is a frequent target of the Mail, not least for its owner’s views on Brexit.
- The Mail told Business Insider that Virgin was engaged in political censorship.
Virgin Trains announced that it will no longer stock the Daily Mail on its trains because the newspaper is “is not compatible with the VT brand and our beliefs.”
The company, which is 51% owned by Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, said the Mail’s editorial stance on immigration, LGBT rights, and the unemployed means it is no longer eligible for distribution on its services.
In response, the Mail accused Virgin of political censorship. In a statement to Business Insider, the paper suggested that the decision is revenge for the newspaper’s public support for Brexit, which Branson strongly opposed.
Virgin’s decision was communicated in an internal memo, obtained by the trade journal PRWeek, as well as in the journal of rail trade union ASLEF. The decision was first reported on Tuesday, but is believed to have been in effect for more than a month.
According to PRWeek, the memo said: “Thousands of people choose to read the Daily Mail every day. But they will no longer be reading it courtesy of VT.
“There’s been considerable concern raised by colleagues about the Mail’s editorial position on issues such as immigration, LGBT rights, and unemployment. We’ve decided that this paper is not compatible with the VT brand and our beliefs. We won’t be stocking the Daily Mail for sale or as a giveaway.”
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A spokesman for Virgin Trains said he “did not think” Branson had any personal involvement in the decision to remove the paper from Virgin Trains.
Here is the Daily Mail’s statement in full:
“It is disgraceful that, at a time of massive customer dissatisfaction over ever-increasing rail fares, and after the taxpayer was forced to bail out Virgin’s East Coast mainline franchise – a decision strongly criticised by the Mail – that Virgin Trains should now announce that for political reasons it is censoring the choice of newspapers it offers to passengers.
“It is equally rich that Virgin chose to launch this attack on free speech in the ASLEF trade union journal.
“For the record Virgin used to sell only 70 Daily Mails a day. They informed us last November that to save space, they were restricting sales to just three newspapers: The Mirror, FT, and Times.
“They gave no other reason, but it may be no coincidence that all those titles, like Virgin owner Sir Richard Branson, are pro-Remain.”
Bad blood between the Mail and Branson
The animosity between Virgin, Branson, and the Mail is nothing new – and it has been intense in recent months.
On New Year’s Day, the Mail ran a front page story attacking high pay for rail executives, including those linked to Virgin.
— Helen Miller (@MsHelicat) December 31, 2017
In October, Mail columnist Sarah Vine wrote a column connecting Branson to the Harvey Weinstein scandal, accusing him of “overstepping the mark” in his interactions with women and suggesting that he ought to apologise.
And on January 3, Mail city editor Alex Brummer wrote a comment piece in which he mocked Branson as a “boastful billionaire” with no regard for his customers. Brummer highlighted his ski holiday in Verbier, Switzerland, at the same time as passengers were hit with a large increase in rail fares.
Columnist Quentin Letts has also described Branson as a “condescending swine,” and accused him of a “plot to hijack Brexit” after giving funding to a pro-Remain campaign after the referendum.