One of Britain’s largest train operators has accused Jeremy Corbyn a labour Party MP of misleading the public, in a row that could challenge the Labour leader’s attempt to style himself as a champion for working people.
Virgin train said it had “to take issue” with Mr Corbyn’s claim that he was not able to find a seat on a train from London to Newcastle this month. Mr Corbyn had staged a three-hour sit-down protest on the journey, saying that “ram-packed” service showed the need to renationalise the railways.
The operator said CCTV footage showed that “Mr Corbyn and his team walked past empty, unreserved seats”, before starting filming at the end of the train. Mr Corbyn then took a seat “with the help of the onboard crew, around 45 minutes into the journey and over two hours before the train reached Newcastle”.
Labour members and supporters started voting this week in the leadership election, with Mr Corbyn the favourite to beat his challenger, the Welsh MP Owen Smith. Supporters of his re-election campaign said the train protest was an example of his authenticity. You’ve got to hand it to Jeremy Corbyn, he knows what it’s like to travel on public transport in Britain 2016,” said Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the TSSA union, which has backed Mr Corbyn. “Critics will no doubt try and accuse him of spin. But let’s face it, what’s there to spin here?”
Mr Corbyn’s image of simplicity and humility has been a key part of his appeal to younger voters. His tax return shows he has no taxable savings income. When his supporters raised £6,000 in a crowdfunding appeal to buy his dream bicycle, a £475 Raleigh Criterium, he subsequently promised to donate the equivalent amount to charity.