The row over Virgin’s CCTV release showing Jeremy Corbyn seated during a train journey he claimed was “ram-packed” was reignited today with a fierce attack on Richard Branson by the labour leader’s re-election campaign director.
Sam Tarry branded the Virgin chief executive a “tax exile” and claimed he was “laughing all the way to the bank at the British taxpayer’s expense”.
The Jeremy for Labour boss, who is running Corbyn’s campaign in the Labour leadership election, turned the row over whether Corbyn had misled people into an attack on millionaire Branson and his company’s profits.
Quizzed about ‘traingate’, Tarry said: “The bigger story here is quite astonishing, that a tax exile of more than ten years decides to lay into and make a political intervention, which is essentially what this is, on social media, in a very public way.
“I think it’s quite clear, Richard Branson is literally laughing all the way to the bank at the British taxpayers’ expense.”
Tarry also told BBC Radio 4 that Branson had made more than £50 million “direct from the taxpayer”.
“Let’s be clear about this on exactly what’s going on here. No train operating company in this country would be able to actually turn a profit without the vast subsidies of British taxpayers.
“This guy is a tax exile. In the last year this chap has made around about £53 million direct from the taxpayer, and that’s profit.”
The intervention came just hours after the campaign Tarry heads issued a different statement condemning rival leadership contender Owen Smith for “personal abuse”.
Virgin directly tackled Corbyn when it released video showing him passing unreserved empty seats on a train he later claimed was “rampacked”, seated on the floor in the vestibule between carriages discussing the problems with overcrowding on Britain’s trains.
The company said in a statement it “had to take issue with the idea Mr Corbyn wasn’t able to be seated on the service” - adding “this clearly wasn’t the case”.
How Traingate unfolded, according to VirginVirgin Trains
Corbyn has since rebutted the claims, saying he was offered a pair of seats with his wife when another couple were upgraded to First Class some 45 minutes after boarding.
But Virgin’s release of CCTV to evidence its admonishing of Corbyn has sparked questions over whether the move could have breached Data Protection Laws.
The Information Commissioners Office, which regulates the relevant law, said it was “aware of the issue” when contacted with complaints about Virgin’s CCTV release, and confirmed to The Huffington Post UK it was “making enquiries”.
“We are aware of the publication of CCTV images of Jeremy Corbyn and are making enquiries,” an ICO spokesperson said.
“All organisations have an obligation to comply with the Data Protection Act and must have legitimate grounds for processing the personal data they hold.
“Where there’s a suggestion that this hasn’t happened, the ICO has the power to investigate and can take enforcement action if necessary.”