We shouldn’t criticize Jeremy Corbyn for finally doing a bit of reasonably clever “media”

Jeremy Corbyn is getting a bit hammered, particularly by Richard Branson, for a video of him sitting on the floor of a Virgin Train.

You can read the ins and outs of “Traingate” elsewhere.

Since he was elected Labour leader there have been umpteen examples of Jeremy Corbyn being absolutely useless in dealing with the “media” in all its forms.

At long last, he has done something, from the floor of a train corridor, which could loosely be described as reasonably good media handling. He highlighted, with great visual panache, an issue (lack of seating on trains) and explained his plan to deal with it (bring back British Rail).

In that narrow sense, I applaud Jeremy Corbyn for his train floor video.

Beyond that, I have some questions/concerns.

The train was not “ram packed” as Corbyn said. The CCTV footage shows there were lots of empty seats. The issue was that most of them had “reserved” labels flapping about in the breeze at the top of them.

So perhaps the real issue is not actually lack of seats in this particular Virgin service, but reserved seat management? Staff subsequently reviewed some of the reserved labels and invited other passengers to sit in them. So perhaps there should be a system whereby, if you do not claim your reserved seat within x minutes of the station you have reserved it for, the reserved label is removed so that other passengers may avail themselves of the seat?

As others have said, would it not have been fairly simple for Jeremy Corbyn’s office to have ticked the box for reserved seating on this train? Most of us do it automatically. It seems crazy for the Leader of the Opposition and his entourage not to reserve seats on a long journey.

By the way, I give JC full marks for not accepting the offer of a complementary first class seat.

Overall, there is a huge issue of lack of seating on UK trains. I have often stood on trains to/from London. This is extremely dangerous indeed. However, I am not entirely sure that Virgin Trains are a particular culprit here and, as I say, the management of reserved seats seems to be the key issue on the Traingate service in question.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist and member of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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42 Comments

  • Alastair Thomson 24th Aug '16 - 6:06pm

    It’s hardly clever media when his story simply unravels and different explanations are given by the man himself and his inept communications staff. It was a stunt which got exposed, showing that this ostensibly ‘authentic’ sanctimonious man of the people isn’t above trying to spin his message – and does it badly.

    Yes, conditions on many trains at particular times are awful, overcrowded and expensive as commuters know but Labour say nothing about HOW nationalising what is already a regulated industry would help. To get continental-style railways, the UK needs continental-style investment.

  • Corbyn simply wants the railways to be run by the RMT, TSSA, ASLEF, commuter groups and rail users groups – all who have agendas which do not take into account the interests of the wider travelling public and the taxpayer.

    Network Rail is a debt ridden bottomless pit which should never have been re-nationalised.

    The Liberal solution should be to encourage the likes of easytrain or the equivalent of Uber on the network, rather than play into the hands of vested interests.

  • Phil Beesley 24th Aug '16 - 6:41pm

    On any evening, Corbyn could have travelled “up north” in a packed train. In stead he pulled a stunt. Corbyrn has been sorted; what are liberal going to do about trains? Do we have an answer?

  • No no no no, oh my dear God, no.

    Clever media would have been going on a ramshackle, late, overcrowded Southern train and sitting on the floor, being a man of all the people – among people from a variety of backgrounds and doing his piece to poor quality handheld camera with his face in someone’s sweaty armpit. It would have been too easy…

    What he did was worse than doing nothing at all.

    He took a very good opportunity to deal with valid concerns that people have about train services and turned it into deadend arguments about renationalisation and comedy about what a dozy twonk he is.

  • paul barker 24th Aug '16 - 8:14pm

    But we can criticise Corbyn as a vain, shifty little con-artist. Thank god hes so bad it it.

  • Bernard Aris 24th Aug '16 - 8:46pm

    If Jeremiah was really, really, really clever, he should have boarded a train run by Railway South (the “businesspeople” who are hoping to get us from London to Brighton for the Autumn Conference).
    Then he as sitting (or should that be: standing?) Labour Leader could have advocated the fate of the long-suffering passengers in areas (Home Counties, Southern seaside resorts) where the Tories and us Libdems (and once every five years, at EP elections, UKIP) are battling it out at every election, with Labour party candidates losing their deposits.
    If the Train he boarded was chock-a-block full, I am sure passengers still would have tried to help Jeremy make his film (like Erdogan: with a cell Phone).
    If Labour wants to break out from its bulwarks, it should do a thing like that…

    Now it’s one grey beard teaching another grey beard how social media and CCTV are used in politics (nothing denigrating about grey beards; I have one myself).
    And if they try to get the subject shifted to millionaires, offshore or not, I seem to remember that one Labour minister loaned a million to another Labour minister to live in a posh house..

    I loved the twitter reaction (in the item BBC news put on its website with a collection of tweets) from the guy who could not sit down in his office: every seat reserved for colleagues…
    And could Jeremy please point out on Bransons CCTV where his wife was in that train? I only saw men acompanying him…

  • @Paul, I do believe that he does actually care. I think that’s his problem. I care and am honest – it’s never taken me anywhere. In fact, it’s quite debilitating. Still, I get your point, it would be worrying if he was more skilled in that area given his agenda. I do feel a little sorry for him, but he is putting himself forward to be a potential prime minister, so he does it to himself.

  • It’s not uncommon to see your reserved seat taken by someone who does not want to move and it’s not uncommon to have to stand or sit on the floor having paid huge prices for the privilege. We have a real problem with our privately run trains and you can either talk about that or you can talk about whether Corbyn made a political error or not.

  • Simon McGrath 24th Aug '16 - 10:06pm

    @DJ ” not uncommon to see your reserved seat taken by someone who does not want to move and it’s not uncommon to have to stand or sit on the floor having paid huge prices for the privilege. We have a real problem with our privately run trains”

    Can you explain how this would be different on a nationalised train ?

  • Richard Underhill 24th Aug '16 - 10:22pm

    Why did it take until today for Jeremy Corbyn to say that he wanted to sit next to his wife?

  • Peter Davies 24th Aug '16 - 10:44pm

    The major cause of overcrowded trains is lack of capacity on the network. That’s already nationalised. It needs investment. There is no quick fix.

  • Bernard Salmon 24th Aug '16 - 11:47pm

    Paul, what’s the problem with first class? Sometimes when travelling between Edinburgh and Inverness the first class fare is only a few quid more than the standard fare, with the added benefit of free sandwiches, tea, coffee and cold drinks. If some people wish to pay a bit more for a better service, why shouldn’t they? And if Corbyn chooses not to accept a complimentary upgrade for reasons of inverse class snobbery, why is that to be applauded?
    I could also add that no-one complains about tge existence of business class on planes, so why are trains any different?

  • Now two articles, and dozens of responses to a man on a train?

    As I’ve said before…A pound worth ‘sweet Fanny Adams’, a government with no post Brexit plan, millions of UK citizens in unsustainable debt, an NHS in crisis, increasing racism, etc, etc.

    It seems that, if you want people to take notice of such matters, one should just stick the word ‘Corbyn’ somewhere in the title…

  • James Moore 25th Aug '16 - 8:37am

    It takes a truly incompetent Leader of a UK wide political party to not be able to find an actually genuine packed train for a media stunt.

  • James Moore 25th Aug ’16 – 8:37am…………….It takes a truly incompetent Leader of a UK wide political party to not be able to find an actually genuine packed train for a media stunt……..
    Or, alternatively, he just happened to be going somewhere……

  • Ignoring Corbyn, yes there is a problem with the seat reservation system. It’s not possible to look at every ticket and consult the train map in your head to decide whether you can sit for the 15 minutes allotted before the person who has reserved the seat turns up or not. If s/he does appear then you have to get up and do the whole rigmarole again. Yet often the one with the reservation has paid less for the ticket than the one forced to stand. It’s a complete farce!

    This issue was raised recently on the BBC and the train operator spokesman was entirely dismissive – even laughing at such complaints and telling the listeners that the company did not want to be like Ryanair with everyone scrambling for a seat. The trouble is that this half-way house just doesn’t work. They should either make sure everyone gets a seat or nobody does. Nobody should be forced to stand in a compartment that is clearly not designed for people standing.

    On other lines its plainly obvious that for years they have only ever provided 1 or 2 carriages throughout the day despite the fact that most of the time folk are standing; and especially so at rush hour.

    So yes Corbyn did highlight a problem, but not one that would be solved by re-nationalisation so much as some government consumer protection body forcing the companies to sort themselves out and act on complaints. One solution might be to be forced to refund the money of anyone who buys a seat but doesn’t get it which is what would happen anywhere else. Why railways get allowed to get away with such bad service is not at all clear to me.

    But there is a bigger issue with trains that we have all surely wondered about: How is it possible that both buses and aircraft cost less for exactly the same journey despite having greater apparent disadvantages than trains? Is it just rank bad management or are trains intrinsically unviable? If the former then yes we need to call in the likes of Easyjet to tell them how to do it properly. If the latter then we should probably just tarmac the tracks and run buses on them instead.

  • Neil Sandison 25th Aug '16 - 11:44am

    A badly organised political stunt that backfired on the participant .It just re-emphasised his lack of ability and his grumpy old man side when put under pressure .You can understand why Labour MPs think he and is aids just hide away when life gets difficult or he is challenged.

  • Simon Shaw …I believe that the publicly owned East Coast rail paid back an even bigger premium per passenger to the government….

  • It would be delightful if “gone to make jam” was to enter the lexicon as a euphemism for a politician going AWOL when under fire/scrutiny.

  • JamesG : Trains have exclusive use of the track and signalling which give them some advantage over buses which normally share roads with other users. Planes only need short runways at each end plus an air traffic control system.

    As was pointed out earlier the nationalised track operator Network Rail costs the taxpayer huge amounts of money and has a massive debt. Perhaps we should look into the reasons for that before considering nationalising the train operators who pay large premiums to the Treasury but converting the tracks to bus lanes would generally increase journey times on the main lines, though possibly not on secondary routes.

    Jeremy Corbyn and his friends in the Labour and Green parties and some Liberal Democrats are not the least bit interested in facts or the real problems of the railways but solely in denigrating private enterprise or any attempt to make railways more efficient and hence less expensive because that would upset their friends in the left wing unions. The RMT and the others have been campaigning for years to stop any improvemets in efficiency and have generally lost but in the meantime created misery for train passengers who seem to blame the management for not giving way to their demands so they can have a quiet life. Appeasement is not generally the best policy.

  • Dave Orbison 25th Aug '16 - 12:14pm

    @Simon Shaw – if I got on a train with a group, as Corbyn did, and this group included my partner, I would in all likelihood want to sit next to my partner. Does this I was not part of a group? Of course not. You cobble together what you want. Why do you dismiss the footage backing up Corbyn and the tweets from people who were there. Oh let me guess they are all revolutionaries who travel on the service.

    Corbyn, as with Tim Farron, does not control the media. If the Media wish to portray someone in a negative light (Corbyn) or dismiss someone as a political irrelevance (Tim Farron) is it really their fault? Could the problem be an issue of bias?

    At the Corbyn Press Conference yesterday Corbyn launched his policy on the NHS. Irrespective of whether one agrees with it or not, I presume most would agree the future of the NHS is a more important issue that the train incident. Yet Sky News focused entirely on this issue.

    I understand that the LibDems need some cheering up. Hammered into oblivion due to their own political miscalculation (no one else to blame), now in single % points in polls (despite the apparent total unelectability of Corbyn), directionless, no media profile or coverage and a leader who is invisible.

    And in the absence of any credible policy on rail, and certainly one that if it exists is totally unknown to the public, ridicule an opponent who does have public support for his policy. Wow – a master strategy.

  • Simon Shaw 25th Aug ’16 – 12:21pm………..@expats “Simon Shaw …I believe that the publicly owned East Coast rail paid back an even bigger premium per passenger to the government….”

    That may well be the case….It is…You, and you are far from alone, seem far more interested in scoring anti-Corbyn points than addressing the core issue of overcrowding and public/private ownership of a vital transport system….

    I agree with you regarding “The east coast has been a graveyard for previous operators – both GNER and National Express had to hand back the keys after making over-optimistic promises on revenue.”…It looks increasingly likely that Stagecoach/Virgin may well ask the taxpayer to step in again…

    What do you have against public ownership of utilities/transport…please don’t refer back to the vastly different world of 70/80s technology (as per your earlier post about BR’s failings)……..If East Coast Rail could do it better than the private sector (and that on the most challenging of routes) why not other franchises as they end?

  • Matt (Bristol) 25th Aug '16 - 12:48pm

    I am in favour of the option existing for railways to return to public hands, if that is on a regionally managed basis, rather one national provider.

    I think we all have to admit that the issues of infrastructure, rolling stock and capacity that cause many aspects of overcrowding, cannot be resolved without large-scale investment and we are unlikely to see instant change whoever is in charge.

    I think we need to guard against seeing the entire national system as ‘one thing’ (as in the provocative ‘if it’s not working tarmac it’ comment above). It is regionally diverse – as all traffic flows are, whatever the transport mode – and one-size-fits-all target-led management from Westminster should be strenuously resisted. Corbyn’s apparent failure to see that makes me sceptical of him. I don’t believe ‘his’ railway system would be locally accountable.

    I am not in favour of confiscatory socialism. But if a confiscatory socialist model was wanted to try to resolve UK traffic issues and quickly drive capacity up and prices down, then forced nationalisation of the bus and coach companies – particularly National Express – would seem to be able to provide it quicker and cheaper than tinkering with the railways franchises.

  • Simon Shaw 25th Aug ’16 – 1:45pm………If the only complaint against Corbyn were limited to his conduct in those few minutes yesterday morning he would, on that alone, have disqualified himself from leadership of a major political party. Quite simply if you can’t politely handle valid questions from the media (even when you obviously don’t want to) then you are clearly in the wrong job………..

    Did YOU actually watch the full conference and press questions or just the selective few minutes?…I thought he dealt politely, but firmly, with those who were only interested in getting a ‘one liner’ headline…..Unlike Cameron/Clegg he didn’t lose his temper with his questioners, even though, “Mr. Corbyn, are you a liar or a lunatic?” was a sample of the level of questions…

  • Dave Orbison 25th Aug '16 - 4:01pm

    @Simon Shaw “as I understand it”. Precisely the problem. You appear to believe there is only one side to an issue and invariably you are on it not least as you insist on relying on your own assumptions. You seem unable to accept the possibility that there are conflicting statements from people who were there and who were not in the Corbyn entourage.

    On a wider point the wholly disproportionate focus on Corbyn on this issue by some on LDV even going so far as to suggest that Corbyn is unfit for office and cannot be trusted, simply beggar’s belief. Even if we accepted the worst explanation that it was a calculated stunt by Corbyn, most would admit that he was raising a legitimate and serious issue. Overcrowding on railways needs to be addressed. So Corbyn was right to highlight this public interest issue surely?

    I have to say that when it comes to gauging ‘fitness for office’ and ‘trust in politicians’ I am happy to rely on the Huffington Post’s review of Nick Clegg and LibDems record in office as a useful comparator to those LibDems casting doubt on Corbyn’s integrity. The difference being of course the LibDems promises were made in an election campaign when Clegg banged on about the LibDems being unique as the only party to trust.

    See article TEN BROKEN PROMISES

    http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/harriet-harman/10-broken-lib-dem-promise_b_3925441.html

    Finally, let’s set aside the Corbyn factor and ask what have the LibDems got out of the media coverage of our railway crisis? Simple answer is nothing, nothing at all.

    There nothing on the LibDem website in terms of a Press release and nothing as to the LibDem policy on this matter on the website. So through Corbyn’s actions the LibDems were presented with a golden opportunity to say just what the LibDems would do. Yet silence another, missed opportunity. Well to be accurate, instead the LibDems simply offer character assassination and ridicule, playground politics really, when by common consent the person they vilify has actually raised a valid issue.

    Is this what the LibDems have become? Are they so lacking in ambition and capability that rather than offer policy alternatives you opt to simply join in with the Tories and attack Corbyn at every opportunity? Well joining in with the Tories, let’s see, oh yes that worked out so splendidly for the LibDems last time, didn’t it?

  • ” “I give JC full marks for not accepting the offer of a complementary first class seat.” I say that because I assume that no other passengers, beyond JC and team, on the train were offered a complementary first class seat. It would have been wrong for him to receive special treatment. Paul Walter

    Well, given the circumstances, just being offered a complimentary first class seat I suggest was special treatment! And getting someone else to receive a complimentary first class seat, so that you can have their seat is also special treatment. JC should have either put his hand in his pocket and paid for his group to be upgraded or just like everyone else sat on the floor and occupy seats vacated at York for the remainder of his journey.

    So whilst I understand the point about JC attempting to do some clever “media” it is obvious that both him and his team are wet behind the ears and failed to both properly plan what JC was going to say and then exercise their critical faculties on the final result before releasing the footage…

  • Andrew McCaig 25th Aug '16 - 6:02pm

    I really find it very hard to believe that in a week when dozens of children have been killed by a bomb in Turkey (with Turkey invading Syria shortly after) and hundreds in an earthquake in Turkey Liberal Democrats are discussing at such length such a tedious and unimportant matter as what Jeremy Corbyn did or did not do on a train!!! Do people not have anything better to do with their lives??

  • Dave Orbison 25th Aug '16 - 6:08pm

    So Corbyn should have sat on the floor, but then he shouldn’t have, he should have gone in 1st Class but no that would make him elitist, he should have pulled rank on others in 2nd Class or he allowed that by proxy by allowing the staff to sort out the seats how crazy of them to focus on customer service when they could leave everyone to it, or no he should have sat in 2nd Class and in doing so showed there was no problem except for everyone knowing there IS a problem, so perhaps he should have declined the offer of seats as this is special treatment and been made to pay for 1st Class whether he wanted to travel 1st Class or not, who does he think he think he is a passenger? But then again if he did he should have booked ahead ill required to pay the full fare with or without a seat deserve to be punished for their stupidity leaving aside the issue that not everyone could do that as there are insufficient seats, anyone who doesn’t book ahead but are stupid conspirators all trying to unfairly malign Richard Branson who is only making a profit from this ‘service’ irrespective of issues.

    Yes he should have paid for others to travel 1st Class so as to give up their 2nd Class for him, makes perfect sense. In any event with all these Trots complaining about poor train services he certainly shouldn’t have criticised the Media or Richard Branson. In fact its all Corbyn’s fault for travelling in the first place or the alternative it not his fault it someone who works for him who didn’t book ahead and as he employs them then well yes it is his fault. Or was it his partner’s fault for wanting to sit next to him…. take your pick I think I have covered all the stuff thrown at him on LDV of course you could have just agreed that here IS a crisis on the railways.

    So incidentally what are the LibDems going to do?

    No amount of volumes of criticism fair/unfair of Jeremy Corbyn will answer that. So over to you.

    By the way what dd the last Government do to solve this problem? It’s not as if it has suddenly appeared. That last Government, remember them?

  • Dave Orbison 25th Aug '16 - 7:33pm

    Simon Shaw – if you listened to passengers who travelled on that service regularly, contrary to what you say, there is a problem as there is on many service routes.

    I am at a loss as to why you are happy to rely on some of what Corbyn says but disregard bits that do not fit your view. Sounds rather selective.

    As for you saying ‘had a bothered’ to look. I did . True to form you come to sweeping judgemental conclusions with anything but an open mind. As I said I looked for LibDem Press statement and policy- there is none. I have seen nothing in the national press with the acres of coverage there has been.

    So please point me to the articles in Guardian, Indy, Telegraph or others where the official LibDem response has been made and where I and others can see what the LibDems say and propose on this issue. I can’t wait.

  • Dave Orbison,

    Regular overcrowding on that service?

    Not today.

  • James Spackman 25th Aug '16 - 11:10pm

    If the Corbyn team can’t organise reserved seats on a train to go to a Labour leadership hustings, will he be able to organise security at the Labour Party Conference where the result will be announced?

  • Dave Orbison 25th Aug '16 - 11:34pm

    @crewegwyn ah so you don’t think there are any issues of overcrowding on rail services then. Is this the official LibDem line?
    @ James Spacknan – there being more than a handful of Labour MPs, you’ll find the jobs are spread out more than LibDems. Leader does not organise security that falls to the dubious Gen Sec Iain McNicol so I fully expect there to be problems.

    Can anyone tell me who the LibDem spokesperson is for Transport and what the official LibDem line is to this. By this I mean the lack of capacity on rail vs the petty Corbyn stuff?

  • nvelope2003 26th Aug '16 - 1:23pm

    The private operators normally put in bids where the first years attract a modest premium, building up in the later years, which no doubt explains the lower payment compared to the previous nationalised operator.

    The evidence seems to indicate that the “Reserved” labels were on seats which were booked from York by passengers going further north which would have been available to those who joined the train in London until York.

    If the railways had to provide seats for everyone in every conceivable circumstance there would be huge waste and the cost to taxpayers and users would be considerable but practical considerations of that kind do not concern many of those who post their thoughts here.

  • Tony Dawson 26th Aug '16 - 5:20pm

    The extent of this media fiasco simply shows that Mr Corbyn has not been adequately trained. 😉

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