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Richard Branson overturns Daily Mail ban on Virgin Trains

Isla Russell January 15, 2018
British entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson leans out of the window of the driver's cab on board a Virgin Pendolino train at Lime Street Station in Liverpool, north-west England, on March 13, 2012, as he prepares to launch a Global Entrepreneurship Congress. The event aims to be the largest gathering of start-up champions from around the world. AFP PHOTO/PAUL ELLIS (Photo credit should read PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

(Getty)

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.

Virgin trains carries around 20.6 million passangers a year (Photo by Colin McPherson/Corbis via Getty Images)

“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 Daily Mail published 37 transphobic and homophobic opinion pieces in 2017 alone

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.

Richard Branson has a net worth of $5.1 billion (Photographer: Scott Eells/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

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.

British entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson leans out of the window of the drivers cab on board a Virgin Pendolino train at Lime Street Station in Liverpool, north-west England, on March 13, 2012, as he prepares to launch a Global Entrepreneurship Congress. The event aims to be the largest gathering of start-up champions from around the world. AFP PHOTO/PAUL ELLIS (Photo credit should read PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)
(Getty)

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.”

However, Branson said today that “we must not ever be seen to be censoring what our customers read and influencing their freedom of choice.

Richard Branson also used his Twitter to discuss the Daily Mail issue.

“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.”

More: ban, homophbia, Richard Branson, the daily mail, trains, transphobia, UK, Virgin Trains

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