Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Why does Richard Branson think Virgin Trains are above the law?

Jeremy Corbyn clearly exaggerated when he said that the train he was on was "ram-packed" in order to make his case for rail renationalisation, because he now admits that there were a few single seats available but that he didn't want his wife and his team distributed randomly throughout the train.

When there's an ongoing scandal over the Tory health secretary Jeremy Hunt's decision to bury the evidence that his 7 Days NHS agenda is unworkable and dangerous because there simply aren't enough staff it seems odd that week old train stunt is dominating the news agenda.

There couldn't really be a better example of a deliberate distraction than millions of people talking about whether there were sufficient seats on one particular train on one particular day, rather than the fact that the Tory health secretary deliberately hid the evidence that his 7 Days NHS plan was inevitably going to lead to either service reductions or dangerously overworked staff. One man sitting on a train floor is suddenly more important than the safety of millions of NHS patients!

The week old story of Jeremy Corbyn sitting on the train floor was reignited when Virgin Trains released CCTV images of the train journey to the press to try to prove that the service was not as crowded as Jeremy Corbyn had claimed.

The Data Protection Act is pretty damned specific when it comes to the use of CCTV images. The law of the United Kingdom says that "Access to retained images and information should be restricted and there must be clearly defined rules on who can gain access and for what purpose such access is granted; the disclosure of images and information should only take place when it is necessary for such a purpose or for law enforcement purposes.".

The data protection rules that Virgin Trains are obligated under UK law to maintain state that "In certain circumstances we may need to disclose CCTV images for legal reasons. When this is done there is a requirement for the organisation that has received the images to adhere to the Data Protection Act".

A private train franchise feeding their CCTV images to the press in an attempt to damage the reputation of a politician who wants to renationalise the rail network clearly doesn't fall under the definition of a legal reason or a law enforcement purpose.

The Information Commissioner's Office has stated that they are investigating the Virgin Trains CCTV leak as a potential data protection breach. It would be very surprising if they didn't conclude that Virgin Trains had broken the law by leaking their CCTV images to the press because doing so is so clearly not a law enforcement issue.

Richard Branson clearly endorsed the unlawful behaviour of his company by sharing a link to the press coverage of the CCTV leak on his Twitter account.

The answer to the question of why Richard Branson and Virgin Trains decided to ignore the law of the land is completely obvious: Jeremy Corbyn favours renationalisation of the railways, meaning that their company stands to lose their profiteering cash-extraction schemes. Damaging Jeremy Corbyn to protect their own business interests clearly takes precedence over complying with the law.

It's incredibly fanciful to imagine Branson and whoever it was in Virgin trains who decided to authorise the leak had no access to lawyers who would have told them that such a leak would be unlawful, but just for the sake of argument let's keep it alive as an option. This leaves us with two potential scenarios.
1. Whoever it was who authorised the leak was unaware of the Data Protection Act and didn't bother to run their plan past Virgin's legal team. Conclusion - Virgin Trains are incompetent
2, Whoever it was who authorised the leak was well aware that leaking CCTV images to the press for political purposes is unlawful, but they decided that the law of the land is secondary to Virgin Trains business interests. Conclusion - Virgin Trains are criminals
The behaviour of Virgin Trains in this scenario is illustrative of what has gone so horribly wrong in this country. Business tycoons, corporate executives, bankers and the like have come to believe that they are completely above the law.

They believe that stuff like obeying the law and paying tax are just for the unimportant little people, and that the only thing that governs the behaviour of their corporations is profit. If more profit can be made by paying tax lawyers to hide their profits in tax havens, that's what they do. If the law stands in the way of their scheme to discredit a politician who threatens their ability to keep profiteering from their taxpayer subsidised monopolies, they just ignore it.

These people are so used to buying influence and hobnobbing with the Westminster establishment club they genuinely believe themselves to be untouchable. 

Look at Fred Goodwin and his oh so cosy relationship with Gordon Brown and the way he got to walk away from destroying RBS with a fat pension instead of a jail term. 

Look at Philip Green and his love-in with David Cameron and the way he pillaged BHS and its pension fund and then flogged the husk of it to a bloody charlatan with no retail experience whatever resulting in over 11,000 job losses. 

Look at Richard Branson's cosy relationship with Tory Blair and the way that he's clearly going to be let off with an insignificant slap on the writ  at the absolute most for completely ignoring the Data Protection Act in order to try to protect his profiteering rail franchises from the threat of nationalisation.

These people are used to buying influence, dodging-tax and ignoring laws that don't suit them, and that's why they're absolutely terrified of Jeremy Corbyn. They know that his principles can't be bought. They know that he won't back down on plans to renationalise the railways or make corporations actually pay tax on the profits they earn in the UK, even if they offer him a cushy post-politics corporate consultancy.

That's why they'll attack him relentlessly, even if that means ignoring the law of the land to do it.

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