Richard Branson overturns Daily Mail ban on Virgin Trains
Virgin Trains owner Richard Branson has overturned the decision to ban the Daily Mail.
Virgin Trains issued a statement last week banning the sale of the Daily Mail on all West Coast Virgin Trains, partly because of the publication’s attitude towards LGBT rights.
“We’ve decided that this paper is not compatible with the [Virgin Trains] brand and our beliefs,” Virgin explained at the time.
“We won’t be stocking the Daily Mail for sale or as a giveaway.”
The paper’s stances on “immigration, LGBT rights, and unemployment” were cited as the main reasons behind the ban.
This move sparked a row between the right-wing outlet and Virgin.
The Mail said it was “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.”
The ban was an attack on freedom of speech, the Mail said, and it appears Branson now feels the same way.
He has taken to Virgin’s website to say that the move was taken without his knowledge or support.
“While Virgin Trains believes their passengers are free to read whatever newspaper they choose onboard West Coast trains, it is clear that on this occasion the decision to no longer sell The Mail has not been seen to live up to these principles,” he wrote.
The Mail included 37 opinion pieces attacking transgender people in 2017 alone.
The Mail has, for instance, previously featured transphobic articles about the transgender children’s charity Mermaids, calling it a “controversial” organisation and accusing parents of being “meddlers”.
Last year, the Mail on Sunday published a column by Peter Hitchens, who was vocally opposed to same-sex marriage, in which he claimed that “trans zealots” were “destroying truth itself.”
But despite the homophobic and transphobic articles which have been run in the Mail Online, the Daily Mail, and the Mail on Sunday, it seems Branson is not willing to give up selling the paper on his trains just yet.
When the ban was announced, investigations reporter Paul Bentley claimed on Twitter that the Mail was not opposed to LGBT rights.
He said that “at the Mail, gay journalists have senior positions across news, politics, features.”
He continued: “The Mail had the first gay sports editor. Banning the Mail – and content written by many proud gay people – is a political decision that has nothing to do with journalism.”
A Virgin Trains spokesperson defended the banning of the paper at the time, 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.”
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However, Branson said today that “we must not ever be seen to be censoring what our customers read and influencing their freedom of choice.
“Instead, we should stand up for the values we hold dear.
“And defend them publicly, as I have done with The Mail on many issues over the years.”
He added that he had “instructed our team at Virgin Trains to reconsider this decision and re-stock the Daily Mail while they undertake a full review of their sales policy, making clear that this policy should not single out individual media titles.”