Graham Ruddick — The Guardian Jan 9, 2018
Virgin Trains and the Daily Mail have become embroiled in a row after the rail company announced it had stopped selling the newspaper on its services because it was “not compatible” with its brand or beliefs.
Virgin Trains operates the west coast mainline, which includes trains from London to Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham and Scotland.
The Daily Mail was one of a limited collection of newspapers and magazines that the train operator sold in its on-board shop.
But in an internal memo, it told staff it would stop stocking the title, saying its employees had raised concerns “about the Mail’s editorial position on issues such as immigration, LGBT rights and unemployment”.
The Daily Mail hit back at Virgin Trains, said it was “disgraceful” that the company had announced it was “censoring the choice of newspapers it offers to passengers” when the taxpayer was being forced to bail out Virgin’s East Coast franchise.
Virgin Trains is a separate rail franchise to Virgin Trains East Coast, however, both are joint ventures backed by the transport company Stagecoach and Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin.
Stagecoach and Virgin are terminating their agreement to run the east coast line early, potentially saving the companies as much as £2bn in payments to the government. Branson defended the move last week, saying Virgin and Stagecoach had lost more than £100m running the route and upgrades to the line promised by the government had been delayed.
The Daily Mail has been critical of the government and Branson over the debacle. A column by Alex Brummer, the City editor, on 3 January was headlined: “The final insult after soaring rail fares? Now you’ll pick up the bill for bailing out Branson!”
A spokesperson for the Daily Mail said: “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.
“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.”
The internal memo from Virgin Trains was first reported by the trade magazine PR Week. The memo said: “Different viewpoints are often valuable, and it’s certainly true that we choose to take our news from different sources depending on our view of the world.
“Thousands of people choose to read the Daily Mail every day. But they will no longer be reading it courtesy of VT [Virgin Trains].
“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.”
A spokesperson for Virgin Trains confirmed the move, saying: “We regularly review the products we have on sale for customers in the shop onboard our west coast trains and after listening to feedback from our people, we decided in November 2017 that we would no longer stock copies of the Daily Mail. When we stocked the Daily Mail onboard, we sold one copy for every four trains.”
Virgin Trains’ decision to stop selling the Daily Mail comes after the stationery and greetings cards retailer Paperchase apologised for running a front-page promotion in the Daily Mail and pledged not to advertise in the newspaper again. The campaign group Stop Funding Hate had encouraged Paperchase customers to express their disappointment with the retailer after the promotion appeared.
In response the Daily Mail said it was deeply worrying that Paperchase had allowed itself to be bullied by a “small group of hard-left Corbynist individuals seeking to suppress legitimate debate”.