Those with long political memories may remember the so-called War Of Jennifer’s Ear, an incident during the 1992 General Election campaign which was used by the Labour Party to show the Tories in a bad light, but which ended up being the subject of controversy, and ultimately a no-win issue which mired Neil Kinnock’s campaign.
Well, now we have Traingte, an issue sparked by Jeremy Corbyn’s team in an attempt to show the rail industry - and therefore the established politics - in a bad light. But, like the 1992 incident, it has resulted in push-back and subsequent needless argument, the whole issue descending into an unedifying spectacle of name-calling - all too much of it from those backing Corbyn. Let’s see what happened to cause the ruckus.
Jezza and his crew boarded a Virgin Trains East Coast (VTEC) train at London’s Kings Cross terminus to travel to Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Someone sympathetic to his cause videoed him apparently having to sit on the floor in a coach vestibule as the train was so full. This enabled adverse comment to be passed on VTEC, Richard Branson, the Tories, and private sector involvement in the railways.
VTEC has now pushed back on the claims, telling that Corbyn and his team had walked past empty - and unreserved - seats in Coach H, past reserved - but unoccupied - seats in Coach F, sat on the floor, done their filming, and at around 45 minutes into the journey had taken seats in Coach H, with the help of on-board staff. Their confirmation Tweet was Retweeted by Richard Branson. This in turn sparked a furious response from Corbyn fans.
Now, I am well aware that many Corbyn supporters will not only not be swayed by anything I say in comment, but will also generate significant numbers of excuses to back up his stance and kick VTEC, but here goes anyway.
Other Passengers agreed with Jezza Fine. Now ask yourselves who is likely to have the most accurate information as to how full the train was - someone sitting in a coach vestibule, or the company operating the train?
Seats only became available after the train made a stop No. Corbyn and his team were seated around 45 minutes into the journey. The first stop was York, at around the 1 hour 50 minute mark.
Coach H is the Food Bar! Er, so what? It has unreserved seats.
But it’s the Food Bar, so there are few seats There are thirty (30) unreserved seats in Coach H - see seating plan HERE.
But it’s the Food Bar, so passengers will leave bags everywhere How did Mrs T once put it? No, no, no, no, no. Passengers take seats in other coaches, then walk to the Food Bar, Shop, Buffet Car, or whatever over terminology may be in use. No evidence has been supplied to support this claim.
The seats were all occupied by children who couldn’t be seen by the CCTV All those unaccompanied kids, by miraculous coincidence, travelling in Coach H of the train Corbyn and his team were on. No evidence has been supplied to support this claim.
Richard Branson Retweeted the response so he was involved No again. Branson does not involve himself in anything at that level. He has merely been tagged or otherwise advised - given the profile of the incident, this is understandable - and has then chosen to RT it.
Richard Branson is personally at fault Very good. Virgin’s stake in VTEC - apart from the brand usage - is a mere 10%. The trains were inherited from the previous operator of the franchise - which was Government-run Directly Operated Railways, who, as a nationalised entity, cannot by definition be the bad guys.
Richard Branson is petrified of Corbyn Do Jezza’s team ever stop to think how those who are of differing view see them? The question has to be asked if only because not only has Branson made no personal comment on this affair, but the idea that he, or any other business leader, is “petrified” of a politician who has so little chance of gaining power is beyond ridiculous.
The trains ought to be run like they are in France, or other European countries Very good. There certainly wouldn’t be any overcrowding on Inter-City services, but that is because in France, Spain, Portugal and elsewhere, if there aren’t any seats available, you can’t buy a ticket and won’t be allowed on the train. Then you could whinge about how rotten it is that, well, something would no doubt be invented.
Travelling by train is too expensive Ultimately this is a political decision - train travel could be cheaper, but then the taxpayer would have to pay more. It’s been a decision of both Labour and Tory Governments recently to make passengers pay more of the share, and taxpayers less.
Why can’t VTEC put more carriages on? There is no wand-waving solution. At present, VTEC are operating their services with the trains they inherited. They will also oversee introduction of new trains and more seats, but this does not happen overnight. And, guess what? There will still be overcrowding at busy times.
Trains get overcrowded. True. But, given the cost of building and maintaining trains, what do you do, buy enough so that no-one ever stands, only to find that for 95% of the time you are transporting large numbers of empty seats around the country and costing those taxpayers even more - even the majority who never use trains?
VTEC and/or Richard Branson are lying There is no evidence to back up this claim. That does not mean some will try and find some, or merely believe what they want.
Richard Branson was once photographed alongside Tony Blair Er, hello, this is utterly, totally and absolutely irrelevant. Here’s a straw to clutch.
Yes, I know, anyone who even suggests Corbyn and his team painted a less than totally accurate picture of their journey from London to Newcastle is a disaffected Blairite, part of a gigantic media conspiracy, a liar, and so much else. But sometimes, just sometimes, when someone says your side has got it wrong, maybe, just maybe, you should hear them out and take on board what they say, without being creative, defensive or abusive.
Because right now, a significant number of Corbyn fans are not doing themselves any favours. But they’re right, everyone else is wrong, and that’s that.