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Wednesday 24 August 2016

Corbyn Mired By Traingate

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.


Anonymous said...

Tim, you've become the new Dan Hodges.

Anonymous said...

Much of what you say has already been disproven.

Seats became available before York as a family was either upgraded by Virgin or paid the upgrade to move to first class apparently.

Etc etc etc...

Anonymous said...

@RichardBranson himself directly posted a tweet yesterday afternoon claiming Corbyn and team walked past empty unreserved seats. The picture he tweeted appeared to show all seats Corbyn was walking past had reserved tickets on. No timestamp on the picture.

Tim Fenton said...


Please state what has been disproven.

Tim Fenton said...


Hw walked past unreserved seats in Coach H AND reserved but unoccupied seats in Coach F. The latter had the reservation tickets on.

Gonzoland said...

So, there's no problem in getting seats on the East Coast trains then and Corbyn's a liar? Wow, he could have sat himself on a seat with a reserved tag and, of course, all MSM outlets would see that as perfectly acceptable behaviour.
Any article in the Guardian will generate about 3 to 5 thousand comments posted by readers these days. The Virgin Trains item has 12 thousand comments. For Heaven's sake folks, get a life or get a where you're not paid to post ill-informed political crap on news websites. Also, I'm sick of the Corbyn / Smith 'debates' and I much prefer the originals with Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson.

Brian Higgy said...

So Tim, all those ordinary members of the travelling public who agreed with Corbyn's account are also liars? Some of the comments by a number of Corbyn fans may be over the top but this response is just as bad. Dissappointed!

Tim Fenton said...


The hyperbolic "So you're calling me/her/him a liar" does not help move us forward.

There are a number of reasons why others may agree with one or other account of this affair which do not include any kind of dishonesty.

Unknown said...

Another reason the tax exile Branson is anti-Corbyn is the NHS situation. If Corbyn is elected he has said the NHS will be re-nationalised. That includes all the assets and services paid for and owned by taxpayers which Branson has acquired under the Tories.

Unknown said...

The frustrating thing about this case is that there is a strong argument for nationalising trains and many operators offer a poor service to their customers and make millions in the process. This whole story just ends up making Corbyn look bad and damages the nationalisation campaign.

http://www.thesocialshuttle.com/ said...

Sad that Zelo Street would even give this non-story a mention but you are incorrect : Richard Branson DID tweet this story under his own name (no doubt an underling did it)along with a picture that Tory supporting barrister and Telegraph contributor Mathew Scott says is in clear breach of data protection laws.

If Branson does author his own twitter feed I guarantee he is now going into overdrive trying to contain this stupid tale which will undo all his Virgin rail advertising and which Britain's nasty Tory supporting tabloids (which is all of them) will now forget Corbyn and concentrate on crowded strains and complaining travelers as that is a Good Story.

I'm still perplexed by that any Labour supporting believes that once the media have gotten rid of Corbyn they will give a compete non-entity lightweight like Owen Smith a dream run.

As for Branson- he has committed an almighty gaff by attacking the Leader of The Opposition which is a big no no in business. As for trying to claim because a snap of Branson with Blair has been published, you seem to be ignoring that Blair gave away railways to the likes of Branson so of course it matters.
Stop being so bloody insulting to Corbyn supporters and treating them like nitwits.

And Tim Fenton : please provide your proof that Corbyn walked past unreserved seats : the people with him claim there were either bags, coats or children on those seats.
You have made the claim, I don't know the truth but you have claimed something which is up to you to prove it.

rob said...

Should have bought a battlebus and paid for it through a tax haven. As you do.

Anonymous said...

My respect for this blog has diminished somewhat.

Fishman Dave said...

I am still amazed that passengers can board an inter-City train without a previously reserved seat.

Book a flight, you are allocated a seat

Book a coach, you are allocated a seat.

It should be no different for rail journeys. It's absolutely ridiculous that in 2016, we are still applying Victorian rules to train seating

LiamKav said...

"I'm still perplexed by that any Labour supporting believes that once the media have gotten rid of Corbyn they will give a compete non-entity lightweight like Owen Smith a dream run."

I don't think that anyone has said this, ever. You're creating a strawman. People believing that Smith might be a better Labour leader than Corbyn don't think that the press will give him an easy ride.

Andy McDonald said...

@Fisherman Dave - absolutely.

As for the rest, I had a sinking feeling that something like this would develop. Yes, media bias and all that, but that's not the point. The point is that it's perception that matters to the general public, who won't have the time or inclination to sift through blogs or weigh up evidence. They will however remember what they read in the papers or see on TV.

And that's the key question - it's a bit like Cameron and Piggate. It's not really important what he did or didn't do - what matters is whether people see JC as the sort of person who would ignore a vacant seat for a photo opportunity.

And even then, even if he's vindicated, it'll be Michael Foot's coat all over again. The wording will change to "...was widely reported to have..." and on it will go.

pete c said...

Just love it when those who know diddly-squit about railways poke heads above the parapet.

Fisherman and Andy should just hope that they never have the need to suddenly attend a funeral a few-hundred miles away.

That's why you have walk-up ticketing for instant travel. Can cost heavy, and doesn't guarantee a seat of course - but it gets you there. And then you need to understand the multiple reservations of business folk and reservations for people not joining the train for 2 hours yet.

But, there are tip-up seats in the vestibules. No adult needs to sit on the floor. Leave that for the gadget-fixated youngsters.

Or get the next train.

Bravenewmalden said...

It's demeaning to have to sit on the floor of a train. I can't imagine anyone actively choosing to do it, still less anyone in the public eye. This is the thing that bothers me about the denials and rebuttals - why would Corbyn have taken that, er, position, if he thought for one moment that anyone on the train could have rubbished his claims?

SteveB said...

@Bravenewmalden "I can't imagine anyone actively choosing to do it". You need to travel more.

I regularly clamber over sad people sitting in the doorways to get at empty seats - even on peak hour trains out of Euston. We live in an age of the stupid (pete c is too polite!). They see a label with words on it. They don't have an APP to tell them what to do so they walk away. The label also has some place names on it but our APP followers can't even use the mapping APP they probably have, to work out where those places are in relation to where they are going (obviously it's asking too much to expect British people to have any idea of British geography). So the reserved bit may be after they get off, which could well have applied in Corbyn's case. Or if the train has been running for a while the reserved bit could have passed and the people have gone (not in this case). Or the people never turned up (very common with flexible tickets booked over the net which insist on giving out reservations to people who don't actually want them) - in which case the seat is free if not claimed within about 10 minutes of leaving the station. It's all very well saying we need more £1 million each carriages to give more seats, but then you also need billions spent extending stations to fit the longer trains, or just as much to expand signalling to cope with extra trains. And what many of the moaners mean when they say there aren't enough seats is that there aren't enough seats with no-one sat in the next one, because they can't cope with human contact since their entire sad lives revolve around their electronic devices.

What we are left with is a shambolic old man who can't find a seat on a train but thinks he knows the best political policy for running the entire rail network. And who isn't savvy enough to realise that every minute you spend on a train is probably recorded.

Meanwhile Fisherman Dave and Co should try the likes of France or Spain. No reservation - no travel. That's bad enough but what happens when things go wrong and a train gets cancelled. Thousands of people trying to rebook onto what's left with queues down the street. Maybe you'd like the ultimate in French stupidity (sorry, "progress"), very cheap long distance trains where you HAVE to book online, have to pay extra if you want a real seat rather than a perch, and if you have problems are not entitled to personal help at a station but must phone a premium rate call centre. Branson would love this and all this moaning is helping his cause.

LiamKav said...

"why would Corbyn have taken that, er, position, if he thought for one moment that anyone on the train could have rubbished his claims?"

Why did Miliband's team think it would be a good idea to be filmed buying those sausage rolls? Why did Corbyn say he never said Article 50 should be invoked immediately when he had been filmed saying exactly that? People do stupid things for a whole mess of reasons. Maybe he was distracted and didn't realise there were empty seats. Maybe he didn't realise that just because there's a ticket in the top of the seat, doesn't mean it is reserved (the person might have already got off, it might be reserved for later in the journey, the person might not have turned up). Maybe someone talked him in to a photo opportunity without realising what would happen. Maybe the MSM is out to brutalise a lovely man who just wants everyone to hug. And maybe him and his team are just that politically naive.

Watcher234 said...

Welcome to the world of Corbyn supporters who seem to have been cut from the same cloth as Kippers & Trumpeters No evidence or straight talking will sway them Their man is right even with everything points to him being wrong Like kippers & trumpeters a drubbing in an Election won't stop their ranting As it's obviously all a MSM plot & everyone else are the deluded ones not them .
Notice Corbyn has been bragging of a call from failed presidential hopeful Sanders on Monday which has now been denied by Sanders
I smell another Farce approaching

Gonzoland said...

@Watcher234. Have you read the Daily Telegraph report about Bernie Saunders? Where in the article is there a quote about a 'message of support'?

Rivo said...

It also casts yet more doubt on Corbyn's ability to run a political party, let alone a country, that he and his team apparently didn't have the nous to order and reserve their seats on that train in advance, as so many other people managed to do...

Ceiliog said...

"George Osborne 'caught in first class with a standard ticket five months ago'
"George Osborne, who was last week forced to pay a £160 rail upgrade after sitting in first class with only a standard ticket, had already been caught making the same "error" five months ago, it has emerged."
"His special adviser reportedly said Mr Osborne, the third most senior minister in the Government, could not possibly remove himself to sit among the general public in standard class for the two hour journey to London." - The Telegraph 21 October, 2012.
Virgins Trains + high-ranking politician + seating but, at the time, only a tiny amount of news coverage as opposed to the massive media storm with Corbyn.

Unknown said...

Very smart reply Rivo; I'm guessing that the much-reported reason - that they had booked tickets on the previous train, but had missed that because Corbyn had been delayed talking to supporters at a previous event - have passed you by.

Tim Fenton said...


As that's "much-reported", I'm sure you will be able to post a link.

Many thanks.

SteveB said...

"they had booked tickets on the previous train, but had missed that because Corbyn had been delayed"

@ those campaigning in favour of French style compulsory reservations; please discuss. Your starter for 10, because he had booked for his party and then not turned up it meant that an earlier train would have had empty seats with people wandering up and down saying they couldn't find any for themselves. And so on.....

@Ceiliog: Osborne was a twat who should have been shown up but his case did have some significant differences, mainly he didn't post a video claiming he'd been hard done by, he just got his plastic out when challenged. And he didn't claim there were no standard class seats when there clearly were.

Unknown said...

My apologies Tim, and Rivo; though I read it a number of times the other day, it must have been BTL rather than an article (and I hope you'll forgive me for not going back BTL!...).

Ceiliog said...

@Steve B. Yes, it's a shame that Osborne didn't take a camera crew with him to provide evidence of his superiority over the rest of us and why he's entitled to First Class seats on trains after buying Second Class rail tickets.

Paul said...

Ceiliog: I don't recall Osborne's USP being "straight talking, honest politics". Another reason for the lack of mefia interest in his case.

Anonymous said...

At least Jeremy Corbyn has got people talking about train travel and they will be long after this ridiculous matter fades. It's just a matter of time before editors tell hacks to get out there and compile train travel horror stories.
Still it serves a purpose for the Corbyn haters who have yet to provide any reasons why they think Smith is an ideal replacement.
And not one has yet twigged to Sadiq Khan's probable plan to back a non-winnable candidate like Smith so Khan can become the saviour of the Labour Party as leader. Which will go the way of Boris' similar plan.

LiamKav said...

Yes, it's got people talking about train travel, something everyone was silent on before. Pity it's not got them talking about the Tories renewed pledge to scrap the Human Rights Act, but what can you do?