Virgin Trains banning the Daily Mail is another brick in the wall of the system of diversity

On one level Virgin Trains’ decision to stop selling the Daily Mail is quite a trivial matter. The company is a private business and can decide not to sell whatever it likes.

But there is also a serious aspect to this, for it shows how some of our major public-facing organisations (including businesses like Virgin and the retailer Paperchase) are explicitly taking the ‘progressive’, liberal-left side in our Culture Wars, and using what control they have over public space to stop the views of opponents from appearing.

According to the story in PR Week, Virgin Trains announced its decision in a memo to staff last year, saying,

“There’s been considerable concern raised by colleagues about the Mail’s editorial position on issues such as immigration, LGBT rights, and unemployment. We’ve decided that this paper is not compatible with the VT brand and our beliefs. We won’t be stocking the Daily Mail for sale or as a giveaway.”

As we can see, the statement is explicitly political, focusing on “the Mail’s editorial position” on “issues” rather than the paper’s sometimes unpleasant headlines howling about ‘MIGRANTS’ and the like. It says that the Mail’s stance on immigration, LGBT rights and unemployment are contrary to its brand and beliefs.

According to PR Week, the campaign group Stop Funding Hate seems to have had no part in this, but its influence is clear for all to see, providing a blacklisting template that anyone can pick up and follow, and for which any public-facing business is a potential target. It is the sort of thing that left-wing activists in Britain used to find themselves on the end of; but they are now in the vanguard in promoting it.

What is perhaps remarkable is how much of the private sector is only too happy to play along. But this is just another in a burgeoning list of examples of how the radical left and business interests have formed an alliance, bridged by the centre left/’centrists’ (including Blairites).

For me, this alliance is one of the political stories of our time. They are gathering principally around mass immigration, which both the left and the private sector want to continue, the left as part of its desire to maximise diversity and business in order to maximise competition and ensure a wide pool of labour (with the centrists believing in both for the most part).

On top of that, as the Virgin statement made clear, the company and its founder Richard Branson are very much in the branding business, for which virtue signalling over political issues is an increasingly popular tool. Last year for example, the retailer Jigsaw wrapped Oxford Circus Underground station in a pro-immigration ad campaign – another example of controlling public space so that the political views of this left-business alliance appear in public in a positive light while those of its opponents either do not appear or do so in a negative light.

Jigsaw's pro-immigration ad campaign, Oxford Circus station, October 2017
(photo from Tara Mulholland)

There is something systemic going on here, in the sense that the call going out from the activists is repeatedly finding a ready and enthusiastic response, not just from pro-immigration businesses but from all sorts of public institutions which are leveraging their access to public space (and their financial resources, including employment ability) to control what can appear in it.

The call and response goes both ways, dragging the two sides into a strange, and strangely comfortable, embrace. This is one thing that I explore in my book, The Tribe: the liberal-left and the systemof diversity, which is coming out later this year.


  1. Hi Ben, this is driving me crazy but possibly for a slightly different reason to you. My problem is summed up in this quote from an article by Ian Birrell in last Saturday's i newspaper:

    Ultimately this massive row over a minor appointment (Toby Young) underlines the great divide that scars our nation. It is a wound exposed and inflamed by the wretched Brexit referendum. It is seen most starkly in this division between young and old, between those who embrace diversity, feminism and globalisation and those who favour past certainties.

    What I am being driven crazy by is this idea that good = open = no boundaries = support for women's and LGBT equaility = support for globalisation. I support women's and LGBT equality but I don't support the free unimpeded flow of money from us to a small global elite, and the trashing of people and planet which it entails. I don't see why these are being seen as somehow coming from the same value system. And yes I think I will ask Ian Birrell!

    I have recently heard the phrase greenwashing for making things acceptable by giving them an environmental facade. Is there a word for this? Virgin Media bans unions. Virgin get extremely fat on comfortable public contracts. Richard Branson lives on a paradise island and gets wheeled in to Britain every few years to tell us what we should do and Virgin sues the NHS for not awarding them a contract etc etc and they are trying to make out they are the good guys because they share values with people fighting discrimination. Like when parliament is lit up with the rainbow flag for Pride. Is there a phrase for businesses/politicians trying to clean up their image by by linking their 'brand' with our struggles? There should be. Over and out.

  2. Another clear headed insightful post.

    One which I thought juxtaposed rather nicely with this article from the Sun newspaper about Labour's hypocrisy over hateful speech:

    Leaving aside the various insults thrown at McVey, the article highlights John McDonnell's assertion that, 'it (is) right for politicians to use powerful language to make a point and express “honest anger”.'

    Unless of course it's powerful language that Labour doesn't like, say about mass immigration, abuse of the welfare state, public sector indolence or incompetence, or Islam inspired crimes.

    Even when Labour MPs like Yvette Cooper and Jess Phillips agree that this abuse is wrong, they are blissfully unaware of their own authoritarian hypocrisy regarding their propensity to shout people down with the words 'racist', 'sexist', 'homophobe', 'Islamophobe' etc.

    I don't believe any of the people involved in this think they are doing anything wrong nor do they realise the huge contradictions in their positions / behaviour.

    And the reason I think for that is that actually most people in public life on the Left are not that bright.


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