Did Corbyn stage traingate? Clearly not. Did Virgin/BBC break law? Probably.

Virgin today has claimed that, in effect, Jeremy Corbyn staged the video of him sitting on the floor of a full train, insisting that there were seats available and releasing CCTV footage of him walking along the train past – they claim – empty and unreserved seats, as well as empty and reserved seats that he could have taken.

Scandalously, BBC News continues (as of 8.20pm) to cover the ‘row’ as if there is still any dispute about the matter, when there is already ample evidence that the facts completely support Corbyn’s account.

Virgin’s statement reads:

Seats were available on the train in which Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn was filmed sitting on the floor, Virgin Trains has found.

Film footage released to the media showed Mr Corbyn sitting on the floor of a three-hour Virgin Trains service from London to Newcastle claiming it was “ram-packed”.

CCTV footage taken from the train on August 11 shows Mr Corbyn and his team walked past empty, unreserved seats in coach H before walking through the rest of the train to the far end, where his team sat on the floor and started filming.

The same footage then shows Mr Corbyn returning to coach H and taking a seat there, with the help of the onboard crew, around 45 minutes into the journey and over two hours before the train reached Newcastle. Mr Corbyn’s team carried out their filming around 30 minutes into the journey.

There were also additional empty seats on the train (the 11am departure from King’s Cross) which appear from CCTV to have been reserved but not taken, so they were also available for other passengers to sit on…We’d encourage Jeremy to book ahead next time he travels with us, both to reserve a seat and to ensure he gets our lowest fares

However, the footage released by Virgin is extremely unclear – from the camera angle shown, seats that appear empty in stills turn out to be occupied, as can be clearly seen if you watch the 13-second footage that the BBC has been using carefully.

Numerous eye-witnesses have come forward to state that the train was exactly as full as Corbyn described – often saying that they themselves had to stand for much of the journey – including images of themselves on the packed train. Here are some:

Even The Independent, hardly known for a pro-Corbyn bias, is covering the refutations of those who were there.

To give the BBC just a tiny bit of credit, they do end their coverage with a mention that some people dispute Virgin’s account, but when it’s perfectly clear that there’s no ‘controversy’, they’re stooping very low to frame it as if there is and to spend the majority of the piece talking as if there’s any merit in Virgin’s claims.

True to form, ‘chicken coup’ Labour MPs such as the lamentable Chris Bryant and the hideous John Spellar jumped all over the issue without any concern for its truthfulness or otherwise:

I won’t hold my breath waiting for the retractions and apologies that any honourable person would be quick to issue – nor the prominent corrections BBC News and other media should be running to put right their eagerness to mislead the public (and getting caught doing it).

Oh, and on Branson’s snide “We’d encourage Jeremy to book ahead next time”, this – on a different date – is worth knowing about:


I expect that Jeremy Corbyn misses a lot of trains for similar reasons, but the desperately awful Dan Hodges tried to use the train incident to criticise Corbyn’s leadership abilities:


A party leader that cares about people more than he cares about making a train on which he’s booked a seat – and would rather sit on the floor than upgrade to hobnob in first class – is the kind of leader I want running the country. As I’m sure most sensible people would.

However, there is another key question to address: that Virgin may have broken data protection laws in apparent eagerness to protect their commercial interests by making a politician who is unashamedly on record as wanting to re-nationalise a key money-spinner.

The ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) has jurisdiction over the Data Protection Act and over companies’ handling of information that they collect about us – including CCTV footage. Here’s what the ICO says (highlighting mine) about the proper use of CCTV recordings:


There’s nothing whatever in the rules that states a company can release CCTV of an identifiable person in order to shore up their commercial reputation that might be damaged by revelations of over-full trains (although Corbyn only talks about general overcrowding issues, not Virgin’s).

By releasing it online and to the BBC so that the BBC can use it for entertainment – which BBC News undoubtedly is – both organisations appear to have contravened the ICO’s specific prohibition, since the BBC is evidently not protecting Corbyn’s identity as adherence to the Data Protection Act requires.

So, what do we actually have here? Is it a case of, as Spellar claimed on Twitter, a case of Corbyn’s team attempting a media stunt and failing?

Or is it a case of a business trying to protect its commercial interests by undermining someone who has said he would nationalise their industry, a set of MPs making fools of themselves in their desperation to undermine Corbyn’s Labour leadership campaign and a broadcaster all too ready to breach not only the ICO’s clear prohibition against such use of the footage but, arguably, to have engaged in slander against Jeremy Corbyn?

It’s clearly not the first.

Edit 24/8: Since the media continue to present video footage as though it proves Virgin’s case, I’ve done an analysis of the footage here, in which you can see that supposedly empty seats are anything but.

Edit: for more information and some clear video footage that WordPress won’t allow me to embed here (though YouTube footage is linked in the early part of this article, read Tom Pride’s excellent article.

2nd edit: this tweet by the ICO suggests Branson, Virgin and the BBC could find themselves in hot water
especially in view of this:

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  1. It is not unusual for trains to be packed, as there are not enough carriages for third class passengers. The London the Manchester train has 8 carriages (used to be 12 in BRs days). Of which 4 are First class, one a buffet car, leaving three for third class passengers.
    There is also the issue, with training running late. To avoid a fine, they are terminated before their final destination. Leaving passengers to struggle home on crowded local, slow running trains.
    And why should the likes of Branson care, when he is a tax-exile?

  2. Corbyn needs to request a copy of all timecoded footage of him on that train, as is his legal right. He can then prove whether his timeline or Virgin’s is accurate.

    1. He can’t request the cctv footage as ISO guidance on cctv handling under the data protection act clearly states if other people are identifiable in the footage the cctv operator must not release the footage, I know they did it to try save their corporate image but now the ISO are investigating the matter they won’t break the law twice.

  3. However I would want a potential Prime Minister to have the nous to have booked a seat on a train he knew he was taking some days before. If he can’t do that simple sort of forward planning …!!!

  4. One of Jeremy’s flooded was on television saying that the seats that looked entry were occupied by children and luggage.

    If it was children then fair enough but if a seat is occupied by luggage then tell the luggage owner to shift it and, if they refuse, shift it yourself.

    1. Virgin trains have really pathetic luggage racks though. And you aren’t allowed luggage in the isles.

  5. “if a seat is occupied by luggage then tell the luggage owner to shift it and, if they refuse, shift it yourself.”

    Daily Mail, next day:

  6. I would want the Labour leader and potential PM to have more important issues to deal with than self centred things like advance booking of a seat. Why should he be more important than the people he’s elected to serve. This is why I like Jeremy and think that he would be a good PM: dedicated, selfless and compassionate.

      1. Who says they didn’t do it, KC? He misses trains often, because he stays at events to talk to everyone. What a nightmare 🙂

    1. The article you are commenting on explains that he had a booking but missed the train. The reason he missed the train is that he stopped to talk to a lady who uses a wheelchair. Her account of it AND the photos to prove it are supplied in the article.

  7. How many of us have been on trains where they are choca bloc and you can’t get a seat and so have to stand?
    I have and so I sat in First Class. The ticket woman insisted I go back to second class where there were no seats! People were sitting in the corridor or standing.I was threatened with the police and forceful removal!
    The big question for me then arises over safety. So what if a train crashed with loads of people in the corridors? The very thought is frightening.
    Jeremy Corbyn highlighted what we all know.That trains are often overloaded and too full.Why? Have they cut back on carriages?
    I am thankful for Jeremy Corbyn highlighting this.I tried to and I contacted a journalist and he said : did you take photos? No, I answered …well that’s that then…can’t really do anything.
    The key is to nationalise the railways…

  8. PS As for John Spellar! He has never done anything! He’s not worth a carrot.Hilarious that he has crawled out of the woodwork.



    Will anything be done about it NOT AT ALL

    The BBC though virtually called Corbyn a liar at every hour on the hour!

  10. It’s rather ironic that Stagecoach have been fined many times for having passengers stand or sit on the stairs of their buses when there were no seats for them to sit on. You would think Brian Souter would advise Branson of the inadvisability of his business partner (in East Coast Trains) of over-booking his trains. If the law can be applied to buses, why not trains?

  11. Rubbish. This is not about shoring up corporate reputation, it’s about prompting public debate over whether a politician is lying OR NOT. Take a look at the CCTV timeline footage?

    1. That’s exactly what this post does. And if you view the 13-second clip that even BBC News was using by late last night, it’s abundantly clear that seats that appear empty then aren’t when people move or as you get closer. Can’t see every single seat, but if some were filled then others likely to have been and it becomes a non-story on the basis of no evidence of any lie. Your comment, rather than the article, is the household waste here.

      1. You should check the virgin trains media center where you can gain access to images from when Corbyn borded the train.

        The image of his making his way through the unreserved carriage shows plenty of empty seats. The idea that so many people had left children and bags on these seats is simply ridiculous.

      2. You haven’t read very carefully, have you? The article links to another in which the ’empty’ seats are shown not to be empty.

  12. The Virgin train I was recently on only had 4 carriages on the busy Edinburgh to Cornwall train, one member of staff checking tickets, the train was totally overcrowded, none of the reserved seats marked, no food or drink available from Leeds to Cornwall. Virgin’s fares are ridiculously high as are those of most companies including the sites that say we’ll find the cheapest fares.

    On my outward journey the train was 30 mins late because it had broken down in Bristol.

    Corbyn was right the railways do need to be nationalised & hopefully May will abandon HS2.

    1. Why does it need to be nationalised. The railways have been hugely successful since privatisation.

      They carry more people, are safer and have high customer satisfaction than British Rail. I would add, the number of people using trains fell dramatically after the private services became “The Big Four” and fell again when they were subsequently nationalised.

      I’m under no illusion our current system is perfect, but it was objectively worse when it was nationalised.

      1. You are kidding, right? We have the least efficient, most expensive railways in Europe – that’s not my opinion, it’s freely available data online.

      2. I’ve use the same service Jeremy was on, many times. The Newcastle to London (and back), and often from Newcastle to Edinburgh — I’ve had to stand for the journey a few times, and many more times I’ve seen how absurdly jam packed they allow the train to become.

        I’ve seen it so full that the vestibules at either end of the train were like a London tube during rush hour — people face to face with bags littering the floor. If there were a serious incident where a train needed to stop suddenly or be evacuated, I’d imagine it’d be absolute chaos.

        It’s not a cheap service, so there’s really no excuse. I generally book ahead, but I also use Rail and Sail open return, so I don’t have a choice for my return journey.

  13. Does not excuse the two salient facts.
    1) The person who wishes to run the country was so disorganised he could not prebook a ticket
    2) The person who wishes to run the country lied and continued to do so.
    Well done mate, already unelectable, you are making your party the biggest joke since clegg joined the coalition.
    Slow hand claps all round

    1. Yet another comment from someone who evidently hasn’t bothered to read the article before commenting, since the evidence has exposed the ‘lie’ accusation as mendacious nonsense and the “can’t even book a seat so how can he run the country” bollocks is shown to be exactly that by the simple expedient of showing *why* he often misses trains – the entirely laudable fact that he prefers to stay as long as necessary to meet and listen to people than to catch a particular train with reserved seats.
      I congratulate you – a more patent exemplification of why it’s essential to get the right-wingers and functionaries out of the party could not be conceived.

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