ICO says no Virgin #traingate #DPA breach. Video still exonerates Corbyn

According to the Press Association just now, the ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) has ruled – surprisingly – that Virgin Trains did not break the DPA (Data Protection Act) when it released footage of Jeremy Corbyn on one of its trains in an attempt to portray Corbyn as walking past empty seats when he had appeared on a short video saying it was ‘rammed’:

pa virgin.png

Of course, the ICO has no remit to rule on the fact that Virgin broke its own company privacy policy by releasing the video.

No doubt the Tories and their media allies will use this as another opportunity to run the ‘traingate’ footage in an attempt to make Corbyn appear dishonest.

It will be as false now as it was then – as analysis of the available footage by the SKWAWKBOX showed at the time. Here are the details of that analysis, originally published 24 Aug 2016. To view any images at full size, right-click/touch-and-hold and select to open in a new tab or window:

Last night’s post on Virgin Trains’ claims about Jeremy Corbyn’s supposedly-staged ‘ram-packed’ video has already been the most-read ever published on this blog, the previous daily visit record being broken within the first few daylight hours of today.

Clearly there is a huge amount of interest among the British public as to the rights and wrongs of this issue and it’s great that word is getting out there to counter the corporate and media propaganda.

However, the BBC and many media outlets continue to run hourly coverage of the ‘dispute’ while omitting the abundant evidence from eye-witnesses (and this blog among others), creating – without question intentionally – the impression that Corbyn has misbehaved in some way.

Grainy stills and short clips of CCTV footage are being run again and again, without any analysis, to accompany voice-overs that talk as if the claims he walked past empty seats are fact rather than claim or conjecture.

So, let’s do some analysis.

Video of Corbyn walking past unreserved seats appears to have been released to the media but not yet to be online (or at least I haven’t found it yet). Video from the carriage with reserved seats is more readily available but irrelevant even if some of them were empty – the seats were reserved and it doesn’t take much imagination to predict the furore and headlines if he had sat in a reserved seat whose occupant then turned up: “RED JED STOLE MY SEAT!!!!

So we’ll concentrate on the supposedly damning few seconds of footage BBC News is running, as well as a still from the same sequence that is being used (as one insistent numpty on Twitter kept tweeting to me as if it was proof final and positive) by the TV, online and print media to ‘show’ that Corbyn walked past empty, unreserved seats.

Here is that image:

JC012 - VTEC_10321 Camera 3_11-08-2016 10_10_15.54 (1)

Looks damning, right? But does it stand up? Video can be fleeting and hard to catch, while the still that is doing the rounds is just one image and could, by design or chance, give a misleading impression.

So the next few images show supposedly ’empty’ seats juxtaposed with  stills from the short video BBC News showed this evening. The first shows an apparently empty seat just inside the carriage on the left side from the CCTV viewpoint. Click the image for a larger view:


So, at least one seat appears empty on the media’s preferred CCTV still, but on the video footage its occupant moves into view – but so briefly that it would easily be missed when watched at normal speed. Are there others? Let’s see.


The seat behind the gentleman in a light shirt looks empty in Virgin’s preferred still, but as the video progresses, what looks like a child moves into view as the man in the backpack passes.


In the area of Virgin’s CCTV capture highlighted above, 3 seats look empty. As the lady with the black curly hair passes, you can clearly see that all 3 are occupied.

The image below is trickier to see as a static image, but the highlighted area definitely increases in size as the BBC video progresses, compared to Virgin’s still, showing that an occupant of the seat is moving:


So someone is in the seat, moving around – probably a child or a short person, but still there.

So, in a 4 or 5-second video clip, no fewer than six ’empty’ seats are shown beyond question not to be empty.

Remember, this is footage shown by the BBC – from the same CCTV camera that was the source of Virgin’s now-infamous still. Using no special equipment beyond a smartphone and a laptop – the SKWAWKBOX was able to identify these discrepancies easily.

Without question, it is not beyond the ability of BBC News – or of any of the other media using the ’empty seat still’ as proof, or of Virgin for that matter – to examine the footage closely and draw proper conclusions.

But then, this blog could be bothered to do it because it’s interested in the truth of the matter and not in creating a ‘row’ out of nothing to suit a commercial or political agenda.

So we looked at the footage properly to see whether the evidence stands up. It doesn’t.

If 6 ’empty’ seats can turn out to be occupied that quickly, then Mr Corbyn is entitled to be believed that none of them were empty – and there is absolutely no evidence to the contrary.

Now, we can already hear those with a vested interest in bashing Corbyn saying, “Ah yes, but he’s already admitted there was an empty seat, because he said today he was looking for two so he could sit with his wife!”

To which the answer is simple. His wife was not on the floor with him.

So he found a single seat and, like any decent, able-bodied husband would, he made his wife sit in it while he went and sat on the floor.

Among other passengers doing the same, as we’ve already seen in my article last night.

On a train that was “ram-full”.

Please share widely.

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  1. Only a rag tag bunch of desperate souls would run this drivel again 11 months later.

    Will the right wing media compound their position as long time authors of their own destruction and hammer another nail into the coffin of broken neo-liberalism?

    Will they put their foot in it and give JC another boost in the eyes of the public?


    Onwards and upwards !

    1. In terms of “running this drivel again”, I don’t think the ICO had a choice – once someone had made a complaint. he (or is it she now?) had to publish a finding.

      According to ITV Virgin “did not break data protection law when it released CCTV footage of Jeremy Corbyn looking for a seat on a train in August last year, the information watchdog has ruled.
      But the operator “should have taken better care” to obscure other passengers’ faces, according to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
      Virgin had “no reason to publish pictures of anyone else on the train” and this was a breach of the Data Protection Act, the ICO found.
      The watchdog stopped short of formal regulatory action against the train firm to reflect “the exceptional circumstances of the breach”.


      So they did breach the DPA, but only in respect of other passengers’ faces, not the rebuttal (or attempted rebuttal according to one’s viewpoint) of Mr Corbyn’s account of the journey.

      But the thing that occurred to me at the time, without rehashing all the videos and photographs, was that if Mr Corbyn and his staff didn’t have the wit to reserve seats for train travel to a planned event then heaven help us if they ever get into government and have to organise something complicated!

      1. “if Mr Corbyn and his staff didn’t have the wit to reserve seats for train travel to a planned event then heaven help us if they ever get into government and have to organise something complicated!”

        Paid for his ticket, didn’t he? (Or, if you want to be a complete pedant, as usual – WE paid for his ticket)

        A seat should come as standard, not a reserve.

      2. Being on the right side of history since the 80s on Apartheid, Racism, Pinochet, LGBT rights, Terrorism, Iraq, Miners Strike, Hillsborough, Tuition Fees etc. etc. and other important issues of statesmanship will stand Mr Corbyn in good stead most of us will say.


        … but in your topsy-turvy world Graham, it’s when and when not to book train tickets 🤣

  2. I can’t believe this nonsense, and have you any idea why a public broadcasting company is so biased; shouldn’t they be impartial and only broadcast the real facts of any matter?
    This organisation needs to be taken to task in a way that humiliates them as they try to humiliate one of the most ethical men on this planet. Shame on them! #jcsuperstar

    Sent from my iPhone

  3. “Of course, the ICO has no remit to rule on the fact that Virgin broke its own company privacy policy by releasing the video.”

    ‘Company policy’….Increasingly becoming the law, these days.

    I wonder….Had Corbyn taken an ’empty set’ and refused to move, or pay an excess, what the ‘burden of proof’ would have been then?

    Of course, that’s if there was a guard/conductor to check his ticket…


    1. A couple of points.

      I think it’s 1.5 thousand million pounds for NI, not 1.5 hundred million.

      On the Daily Politics Dianne Abbott was mentioned in the context of the current discussion about the abuse of MPs and candidates.

      Mr Dromey was trying to equate quoting her past, on the record, comments with abuse. That begs the question of how old a particular comment has to be before it must be put in the “don’t mention corner”, for fear of being accused of abuse – 30 years, 20 years, 10 years, 1 year, 6 months……..?

  5. @ The Toffee

    Firstly seat reservations are free of charge, so are standard if one has the wit to book in advance and tick the appropriate box.

    Secondly if the train operator were to stop selling tickets when all the seats had been sold it would prevent from travelling those who would be willing to stand, rather than not get to their destination. (And I would suggest that even the most optimistic gloss on nationalised rail would not guarantee a seat to every commuter, especially in the South East)

    Thirdly I would hope that you mean that he or the Labour party would have paid for the ticket, not “we” as in the taxpayer!

    1. First on, first seated. Bollocks to all this reserving seats.

      As for your concern for the taxpayer – Well, we’re the ones getting shafted by rail companies. They can easily afford more rolling stock, but we have to pay for it through higher fares AND taxation, to satiate the shareholder’s greed.

      And you vote for the party that allows – in fact, encourages – these companies us to have us off.


      1. “First on, first seated.” – Very Darwinian.

      2. Hmmm…

        No disagreement that people are being shafted by the rail companies and tory Govt, though.

        And there was me thinking tories are concerned about how our tax £’s are spent. I guess they are – providing it goes to them & their lackeys, at the expense of everyone else.

  6. Graham, Graham, Graham… I wasn’t referring to the ICO when I said “running this drivel again”.

    I meant the drivel that filled our newspapers when I was thankfully out of the country last August. And I meant the five Neoliberal, tax avoiding billionaires who decide what crap will fill up the tabloids and broadsheets ad nauseum, day in day out this time around.

  7. Meanwhile , Saudi continues bombing the shit out of Yemen , Syria burns, the £ at all time low against the Euro NHS in melt down Brexit in utter chaos with a Govt bankrupt of any idea what to do they have to BEG ideas from JC for help ( you know the guy you are trying to smear ) and all the folks in the MSM can talk about is a fucking seat on a train!!
    The vast public opinion backed up by experience of thousands is that the privatised railways are SHIT and not value for money . Unless of course you are like the Tory apologist Trol Hindson who thinks its fine for people to stand for the entirety of their journey despite paying a fortune for the ticket .Try that on your way to work for 2hrs commute , do your 8 hour job and then 2 hours back at the end of the day and still think that’s acceptable . Like FUCK is it .
    You want to be more worried what that twat Branson will do to our NHS now he’s owning more and more of it , like suing the NHS for £80 million cos he didn’t win a contract , think how many hip replacements that could fund eh ?
    Desperate just pathetically desperate stuff and as Skwawkbox says the public are seeing thro it more and more thanks to blogs like this , the counter arguments against the MSM and BBC are now having a genuine positive effect .
    Great Stuff Skwaky keep it up

    1. One cannot blame the MSM for reporting the ICO finding. (Imagine the furore if the finding was more strongly against Virgin and it wasn’t reported.)

      1. Yes one can blame them and vociferously so for the absolute deceit spin and down right lies .
        Once again you Tory appologist trying to protect your masters and their attack dogs MSM.
        Its so obvious its pitying.

    2. Then there’s the £££billions being spunked on HS2 – to get you to Londonium a full 25-30 minutes quicker. Whoo-feckin’-hoo!

      Nothing more than a white elephant vanity project that the toerags will hand over to the inanely-grinning bearded tit branson.

      Meanwhile Germany’s gonna build a 2300 mile track linking Pacific coastline Peru to Atlantic coastline Brazil for a mere $10bn.


      Yep, that’s right – 2300 miles of track for $10bn. While this shower will lay about seven times less of track for well over five times that amount…It’s an effin’ outrage.

      1. The simple thing is, Graham – there’s no need for it (HS2). The railways are in a right state as it is, and they wanna spunk billions – primarily to serve london?

        The north’s being palmed off with Londinium’s cast-off rolling stock, and the amount of different agencies you need go through to make a simple journey’s ridiculous.

        Why buy several split tickets to get the cheapest fare, when one should cover the job?

        And that’s before you take your seat – if you get one. For the nation that gave the planet the railways; we’ve become a laughing stock, with garbage rolling stock. They’re fleecing people twice over and the Govt has encouraged it.

  8. @The Toffee

    For once we’re in agreement on something as I’m no supporter of HS2 (although its completion was in the Labour manifesto)

    The fare structure is also badly in need of reform – perhaps something along the lines of £/mile with discounts at off peak times.

    I don’t agree it’s difficult to book a journey though – Virgin East Coast for example sell tickets for all trains except the sleeper services I think..

    1. Ahh would that be the East coast mainline until recently owned by the state returned a healthy sum to the Treasury, had a first class record for punctuality and customer satisfaction,then practically given away to Branson who now pockets that revenue we all once enjoyed as a nation !!

      1. Given away?

        “The new operator will pay the Department for Transport a premium of £3.3bn over the next eight years”


        compared to £1bn in public ownership over 5 years


        It’s those pesky facts getting in the way of the story again.

      2. Was the tendering process all correct for branson for ECM?

        I seem to remember he had a hissy fit until he got his way when he didn’t get the west coast franchise at first time of asking a few years back. The tendering process was ‘flawed’ IIRC.

        But it only cost £40m didn’t it greening – You utterly useless nincompoop. Like hunt and grayling (amongst a plethora of other tories) has she EVER got ANYTHING right?


  9. Hindson yep these pesky facts keep tripping you up like this for instance

    “Total state aid to the network doubled from £1B in the last year of public ownership to £2B in the first year of private ownership ” . ref ( http://www.radstats.org.uk/no086/Mayer86.pdf )

    Etc etc etc yawwnnnn !! Go ahead and knock yourself out reading the rest of the document I already know what a fantastic success privatisation has been for the billionaire Bransons of the world.
    You can piss about with your semantics and links to zillions of worthless documents all you like , the bottom line is , the tax payers of the UK are well and truly shafted by the privatisation rip off and nothing you can say will change that.
    Noticed you didn’t respond to my comment re Bransons suing the NHS or for that matter my reply re bombing of Yemen or your Govt in Brexit chaos and begging for help from JC or are these PESKY little facts that I have mentioned not sitting too well with your world view. Nope thought not
    See , we are not all going to play on your skewed field sonny responding only to what you want to pick and choose.AND you still don’t get a seat on the train either , why because they are all rammed packed for PROFIT .
    Such an utter Tory apologist troll

    1. That linked document is from 2004. Virgin were nowhere near the East Coast line then. It was your contention, if you recall, that Virgin’s ownership of the ECML was practically a giveaway (it wasn’t) and that the treasury got more from public ownership (it didn’t). That’s what I mean by facts.

      And are you suggesting that Richard Branson should be denied his right to take legal action? Just Branson? Just against the NHS?

      I note your opinions on other issues, and the fact that the Saudis are bombing Yemen.

      1. The date of the document is irrelevant to the facts it reorts on , you know those pesky little things that get in the way of your skewed beliefs.

        Re Bransons law suit ,you Bet Your Life I do, because that £ 80 mil represents umpteen life changing or even life saving operations , but then again on your past comments ( your casual noting and dismissal regarding the Yemen bombing ) I don’t expect that to register on our clueless little conscience.
        Branson like all the other privateers are parasites on the NHS

        And you can shove your patronising tone up your fucking arse you Tory appologist troll .
        You know what , l’m not going to waste another digital bite of my bandwidth allowance discussing this any further with you you’re a waste of that and more importantly my time
        The only thing you’ve got right in reply to toffees comment is that we’re on different sides of the fence regards privatisation and nationalisation of a valuable state asset , well no shit Sherlock!!

  10. @The Toffee

    Yes both ADIF and RENFE are, I think state owned, but I’m not sure how that impacts on construction costs.

    1. Forget construction/operating/maintenance costs. If they’re state owned, where do the profits go?

      And just as important, how do their services rate in comparison to the UK franchises? No ifs or buts about it; they’re a whole lot better – because let’s face it, our railway services are not even up to piss-poor. It’s almost surreal that we’re subsidising half of Europe’s railways (And power grids while we’re at it) as it is.

      As for your reply to Rob – You’re missing the point. It wasn’t necessary to give the franchise to branson when the service was (under state control) making a decent fist of it & outperforming private networks.

      That’s the problem with this (And the bliarite) govt. Outsourcing & privatisation is ALWAYS the answer to them.

  11. I mentioned construction costs because that’s what we were discussing!

    I haven’t the knowledge of European railway operations to comment on service levels or profits.

    And it was Rob who claimed that Virgin’s ownership of the ECML was practically a giveaway (it wasn’t) and that the treasury got more from public ownership than the franchise fee will bring (it didn’t).

    But I think we’re always going to differ on state/private ownership in general.

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