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- Virgin Trains recently stopped stocking the Daily Mail because of its editorial stance.
- The Mail then accused the company of politically-motivated censorship.
- In recent months Mail columns have called Branson a “boastful billionaire” and “condescending swine” plotting to “hijack Brexit.”
- But in a blog post Branson said he’d told Virgin Trains to put the papers back, adding that the company should not be “moralising on behalf of others.”
- The Mail told BI it welcomes Branson’s “support for freedom of speech.”
Sir Richard Branson has told Virgin Trains to restock the Daily Mail, after the company announced it would stop supplying the paper on its trains because of its editorial stance on contentious issues.
Virgin Trains, which is 51% owned by Branson, said in an internal memo published earlier this month that the Mail’s position on immigration, LGBT issues, and unemployment were “not compatible with the VT brand and our beliefs.”
In a Monday blog post, Branson said he and Brian Souter – whose company Stagecoach owns the remaining 49% of Virgin Trains – instructed the rail service to restock the Mail, adding: “We must not ever be seen to be censoring what our customers read.”
“While Virgin Trains has always said that their passengers are free to read whatever newspaper they choose on board 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.
“Brian and I agree that we must not ever be seen to be censoring what our customers read and influencing their freedom of choice. Nor must we be seen to be moralising on behalf of others. 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 also insisted that Virgin Trains’ decision “was not part of some grand campaign or at my behest.”
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The Mail welcomes Branson’s decision after personal attacks
A Daily Mail spokesman told BI on Monday that it welcomed Branson and Souter’s “support for freedom of speech,” and that the “many Mail readers who travel on Virgin Trains will be delighted.”
The newspaper, however, previously considered Virgin Trains’ decision as a personal directive from Branson. Following the memo’s publication, the paper called Virgin Trains’ decision “disgraceful” and one motivated by political censorship.
The Mail has been a staunch critic of Branson in the past. Recent editions have carried columns describing Branson as a “boastful billionaire” with scant regard for his customers, and, separately, a “condescending swine.”
In Monday’s blog post, Branson acknowledged that he has his differences with the Mail “on many issues over the years,” but didn’t agree with blocking the sale on his train service on those grounds.
Here’s the Mail’s full statement:
“We welcome Sir Richard Branson and Brian Souter’s support for freedom of speech, which is a cornerstone of our democracy, and his decision to instruct Virgin Trains to restock the Mail. We are sure the many Mail readers who travel on Virgin Trains will be delighted.”