Sir Richard Branson has ordered Virgin Trains to restock the Daily Mail, saying the rail company’s sales ban amounted to censorship.
Branson said the decision by Virgin Trains, which stopped selling the Daily Mail in November after deciding it was “not compatible” with its brand or beliefs, had been taken without his knowledge.
“Freedom of speech, freedom of choice and tolerance for differing views are the core principles of any free and open society,” he said in a blogpost. “While Virgin Trains has always said that their passengers are free to read whatever newspaper they choose on board West Coast trains, it is clear that on this occasion the decision to no longer sell the Mail has not been seen to live up to these principles.”
News of the ban emerged last week when an internal memo was leaked saying staff had raised concerns about the Daily Mail’s editorial position on issues such as immigration, LGBT rights and unemployment.
The Daily Mail said it was “disgraceful” that the company had announced it was “censoring the choice of newspapers it offers to passengers” when the taxpayer was being forced to bail out Virgin’s East Coast franchise.
Virgin Trains is a separate rail franchise from Virgin Trains East Coast, but both are joint ventures backed by the transport company Stagecoach and Branson’s Virgin.
Branson, who is a remain supporter, said the ban was “not part of some grand campaign or at my behest”.
“We must not ever be seen to be censoring what our customers read and influencing their freedom of choice,” he said. “Nor must we be seen to be moralising on behalf of others. Instead we should stand up for the values we hold dear and defend them publicly, as I have done with the Mail on many issues over the years.”
Branson has asked Virgin Trains to reconsider its decision to ban the Daily Mail and restock the title while it makes a “full review” of the sales policy. “This policy should not single out individual media titles,” he said.