The latest and most bizarre scandal to engulf Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn - about whether there were seats available on the “ram-packed” train he used to illustrate his case for re-nationalising the railways - has triggered a defiant response from his supporters.
Sir Richard Branson was bombarded with angry responses after he tweeted the Virgin Trains press release that said Corbyn made up his claim that his train was full and people were forced to sit on the floor.
Corbyn used the train’s supposed overcrowding to call for the railways to be renationalised in a video published on The Guardian.
Here’s Virgin Trains’ version of events that kicked off #traingate,:
- How Traingate unfolded, according to VirginVirgin Trains
- Virgin Trains
- Virgin Trains
But Corbyn’s defenders were predictably undeterred. Here are six things they are saying in defence of the Labour leader.
1. He didn’t get a seat until later in the journey
Many people tweeted pictures showing passengers slumming it with other passengers, also supposedly forced to sit on the floor for want of seats.
The Guardian’s Peter Walker said he had spoken to a passenger on the train who “100% backs his story”, saying she sat in the corridor with her two children near him.
This is also what Corbyn’s campaign said, saying he and his team sat in the train’s corridor until “a family were upgraded to first class” and they were offered seats by “a very helpful member of staff” later in the journey.
But the statement did not address Virgin Trains’ footage that apparently Corbyn had a seat at the start of the journey which he returned to after he did his bit of filming.
2. Trains are overcrowded regardless of whether Corbyn’s was
A political point this one, rather than an observation about what happened on the day.
Corbyn’s statement said: “Passengers across Britain will have been in similar situations on overcrowded, expensive trains. That is why our policy to bring the trains back into public ownership, as part of a plan to rebuild and transform Britain, is so popular with passengers and rail workers.”
3. The seats that were empty were actually reserved
Virgin Trains put out several images of Corbyn on the train and Branson ill-advisedly tweeted it out with an image that appeared to show Corbyn passing empty seats with tickets on them, suggesting they were reserved for at least part of the journey.
...which prompted of deluge of tweets reacting to that photo.
But it wasn’t clear the pictured seats were reserved...
It was claimed Corbyn had avoided the seats because he could not find four seats at a table or a double seat for him and his wife to use.
Journalists poured over the CCTV stills to see if this was true.
Corbyn’s team told the BBC that some of the seats had bags on them and may been taken by people who had gone to the toilet.
4. There are no time stamps on the CCTV images so we can’t know when they were taken
We can give this one pretty short shrift.
5. Virgin Trains breached the Data Protection Act by releasing the footage
The company says it would never release CCTV footage from trains without the consent of the people in the footage.
Someone tweeted the Information Commissioner’s Office, the watchdog that can investigate the handling of the information, which responded it was “making enquiries”.