Boris Johnson slams ‘pompous’ Virgin Trains over move to halt Daily Mail sales
Boris Johnson has rounded on Virgin Trains over its "absurd" and "ridiculous" decision to stop selling the Daily Mail on its services.
The operator said yesterday that the right-wing paper was “not at all compatible” with the company’s beliefs and came after listening to colleagues' views.
The Mail subsequently hit back, claiming Virgin was “censoring the choice of newspapers it offers to passengers”.
The Foreign Secretary became the first minister to openly wade in on the feud, tweeting that the train provider's decision was "pompous, censorious and wrong".
Asked about the move following Prime Minister's Questions, Theresa May's spokesman said: "She has always been clear on the importance of a free press to our democracy and society."
A Labour spokesman also weighed in, saying: "Jeremy Corbyn is a supporter of a free press. There would be no bans on a publicly owned railway".
Mr Johnson's comments come after Tory MP Nigel Evans told BBC 5Live: "The customer is king and I think to dictate what they can get is wrong”.
Elsewhere the Conservatives’ Director of Communications Carrie Symonds tweeted that Virgin had moved to “controlling what other people read”, while former minister Ben Gummer branded the decision “stupid”.
An internal note to staff within Virgin Trains' West Coast business announced that from November of last year the Mail would neither be sold nor given away on its services.
"There's been considerable concern raised by colleagues about The Daily Mail's editorial position on issues such as immigration, LGBT rights and unemployment,” it said.
"After due consideration, we've decided that this particular paper is not at all compatible with the VT brand and our beliefs.
It added: "This won't suit all of our customers or all of our people, it's certain to draw some criticism.
"But we've listened to many colleagues over the last few months, and we feel that this is the right move to take."
In response, the Daily Mail suggested the move was on the back of CEO Sir Richard Branson’s backing for the UK to stay in the European Union before June 2016's referendum.
"For the record Virgin used to sell only 70 Daily Mails a day,” they said.
"They informed us last November that to save space, they were restricting sales to just three newspapers: the Mirror, FT and Times.
"They gave no other reason, but it may be no coincidence that all those titles, like Virgin owner Sir Richard Branson, are pro-Remain."