Anyone else notice the rally of the BBC behind Sir Richard Branson’s (Labour backed) attempt to derail (sic) the decision of the Coalition to award the contract for West Coast mainline. Did you catch this pure PR that Branson got away with on Today this morning? Strikes me that the BBC are happy to use Branson in this way to advance a Labour meme whilst posing as defenders of the commuter.

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  1. Dave s says:

    Branson is a bad loser. The new contract was, I assume , properly awarded on commercial grounds. Branson has no case. The BBC cannot resist giving their favoured capitalists a platfoem to attack the coalition.


    • Mailman says:

      The franchise system is set up to reward the highest bidder…the only qualification being the size of the promise NOT whether what is being promised can actually be delivered.


  2. Sir Arthur Strebe-Grebling says:

    I think it is a very good idea that there should be open and public scrutiny of the contracts awarded by government that cost billions of pounds and last many years.
    Just like all those PFI deals that Brown agreed to keep his profligate borrowing off the public accounts. Not.


    • #88 says:

      I agree, entirley.
      I think that it’s a pity that Labour are politicising this – there are many Tory MP’s and Ministers and buiness analysts that share the concerns that First’s bid was too good to be true. And if you look at the way that First have phased their payments to the Government – it almost certainly is.
      I have some discomfort with the way that Branson has handled this, but by and large, in the way that he has transformed this railway, Virgin Trains was exactly the role model for a privatised railway that Conservatives envisaged.
      What the DfT must answer is why they have chosen First when Virgin’s bid provided better value for the taxpayer until March 2022; was considered more deliverable and offered better timetabling to meet demand. First become more profitable only after 2022, but only on projections that are completely unrealistic.
      Civil Servants at the DfT have screwed up yet again – but that’s par for the course.
      As for the BBC – I would prefer some intelligent analysis from them, let’s hear what industry experts have to say, rather than go chasing celebrities and Labour politicians who are late identifying that here is a bandwagon to jump on. Labour are no friends of Branson – Eagles want to see a disasterous wholesale renationalisation of the railways – if and when First hand back the keys, she may get her wish.


      • Richard D says:

        There has clearly been a thorough decision process which has been going on regarding these bids for some 18 months. Richard Branson was entirely happy with the process throughout the whole 18 months, obviously believing that he would be able to convince the DfT that his bid was best.

        He failed to do so, and only when he loses, all hell breaks loose, with all the usual bedfellows who hate the current government jumping on Branson’s bandwagon.

        The Labour Party, in particular, is just disgusting in the position it is taking. It has been completely happy, throughout its period in power, to allow precisely the same process to be used – without question. When in government, it did not believe for one second that every single major bid for a large and long-term government contract should be reviewed by MPs. After all, how on earth are these numpties going to be able to absorb all they need to just a few days, in order to be able to make a judgement on a process which has been intensely scrutinised for 18 months ? Labour clearly does not think this ‘second-guessing’ process was any use whatsoever, since it never employed any similar approach when all the bids it signed off were queried by anyone – and lots of people queried the PFI bids when they were being awarded.

        It smacks entirely of Branson being a poor loser, the Labour Party of being consumed by political opportunism, and the BBC gleefully stirring the pot with a much vigour as it possesses.

        I heard both of the interviews in the past couple of hours with Tim O’Toole, First Rail’s Chief Exec, and more recently with the BBC’s own chosen ‘rail expert’ – both of whom were relentlessly pressed, throughout pretty extended interviews, by the clearly partisan BBC, to try to put every possible negative ‘spin’ on the story, and thereby basically backing the Labour Party – what a surprise.

        Tim O’Toole pretty much played a straight bat, but on reflection, the number of times he had to tell the BBC interviewer that the premise they were putting to him was just wrong, clearly demonstrates where the BBC was coming from. There was absolutely no attempt at any real journalism or objective view of the situation.

        The way in which the ‘rail expert’ was constantly pushed to basically say that he didn’t know if First Rail would walk away from the contract was an absolute disgrace. It pretty much came across as …. look, here’s our position – Branson good, First-Rail bad – and if you don’t concede anything on that front, then your chances of being used by the BBC again are zippo !’

        And the BBC has kept the ball rolling and noise level increasing all day. It is reaching the levels of a hysterical lynch mob as time goes on. I can only imagine what will happen if the government does not fold in the next 36 hours. Lynch mobs will be called for.


  3. Robin Rose says:

    I have no brief for Richard Branson. Nonetheless, Virgin is a known quantity, and I have no confidence at all in the ability of civil servants to evaluate the competing bids. It seems as if they are happy to believe any old BS, secure in the knowledge that whatever happens, their careers and pensions are secure.


    • Richard D says:

      As someone pointed out on the air at some point earlier in the day – if we had adopted the same approach in 1997, then Virgin Rail, which was bidding for a franchise as a completely unknown quantity in the industry, would perhaps have withered on the vine at bid time.


  4. Pah says:

    Does anyone know if Virgin got the contract for the line before or after giving Labour donations? That’s the real question to be asked.


  5. Dia Yaenoo says:

    Typical of the man. Remember when he lost the lottery bid, he cried and cried for months. He is the master of (free) self publicity. What ever happened to his bid to take out Coke & Pepsi ? Why did I have to stand on one of his trains all the way from Bristol to Leeds ? Why was my wife and I given seperate seats at each end of the plane from Jo’Berg to London, out of a very large party we were one of the few couples with the same surename, those with their bit’s on the side, with obvious different surnames were sat together. His ad’ agency should wake up and keep his grinning face out of the public view it isn’t an asset to that ever present logo.


  6. Leha II says:

    That Branson’s got some sauce….


  7. john in cheshire says:

    I have an impression that Mr Branson has never been liked by the elite in our country. Over the years he has succeeded despite obstacles put in his path by those who wish him and his enterprises harm. On that basis I think the rail contract needs some unbiased reassessment, particularly since the chosen company has a dreadful history of neneging on its commitments.


    • Richard D says:

      If you’re referring to the First Great Western Franchise, on which First Rail had an option to extend that franchise beyond the end of its contractual commitments, and chose not to take up the option – well, that’s not ‘reneging on a commitment’ – there was never a commitment to go beyond the end of the contract. An option is just that – you can take it or leave it, there’s no obligation in any way.

      And I think if you actually look up Virgin Rail’s record, it has certainly not fulfilled all of its commitments made in gaining its franchise.

      We really have to base our decisions on facts in these situations, and Branson is playing fast and loose with the facts – and the BBC is colluding with him by not operating in a proper journalistic fashion.


      • Mailman says:

        for example?


        • Richard D says:

          Not sure what your question refers to in my post – but if it’s Virgin – try looking back at its reliability and punctuality record vis-a-vis charter commitments. If it’s the BBC, then find Mr Tim O’Toole’s interview earlier this evening on BBC – I guess it’s available on i-Player – and just look at the number of times he had to correct the interviewer.


        • Richard D says:

          …and if you’d like more on the BBC incapacity in the journalistic field – find the BBC website’s article this evening re Virgin running the service ‘for free’ if it get’s a delay on the signing of the contract with First Rail. It does correct this later in the article to ‘running the service in a not-for-profit fashion’…. but it’s been using this ‘for free’ tag-line up-front all evening in news bulletins I have heard.


  8. DJ says:

    And all this against the background of the BBC’s constant snarling about something called ‘Big Business’.

    Now we have a multi-national corporation breathing fire at elected politicians for not giving it a huge contract, and the BBC is fine with that.


  9. chrisH says:

    Branson is just the ex-hippie radical chic kind of Rainbow warrior so beloved by the likes of Mandelson and Blair…and hence gets a free pass at the Beeb.
    New Labor to his bones, with fey liberal wristbands and bandannas should he need to distance himself from the likes of Serwotka and Dromey etc.
    Like Sugar and Roddick(RIP)…THEIR kind of trendy Wendy businessman…not ours ,
    Grade One Phoney Tony is Branson. Smells of money and old dope-so the BBC sniff his slipstream and dream of smashing the system , maan!
    We mean it maan…course you do dears!


    • johnnythefish says:

      Plus he schmoozes with Gore and all the other eco-fascist world control freaks.


  10. lillian says:

    The boss of the West Coast trainline was on TV today and he said the bid was fair and good value for money, he also said that Richard Branson has had more than 4 times the complaints of other rail companies. Despite that the BBC continued to interview, at great length the Labour Shadow transport secretary, without giving the same courtesy to the Goernment. The BBC are no longer hiding their bias, their aim is to get their allies the Labour party back into power again as soon as possible and to keep up the discrediting of the Government’s policies until the next election.


  11. lillian says:

    I completely agree with the extremely ‘hysterical’nature of the BBC’s coverage of the Rail franchise bids. The BBC was clearly and unequivocally biased towards Virgin and the Labour party, despite the fact that it would cost the country a lot of money and a huge legal problem, despite the fact that Virgin may not in the end get the franchise anyway, unless there is some ‘leaning on’ going on somewhere, the Labour party, aided and abbetted every single day by the BBC has an agenda to help the Labour party back into power by their constant nit picking and negativity towards the Government and the ommission of any mention of good news unless pressed into doing so.
    I suggest every one who sees signs of bias complains to the BBC so that they begin to actually listen instead of sending a standard reply,in other words, nothing happens.


  12. Dave s says:

    The model used for rail privatisation could be used for breaking up the BBC. Bidders could bid for the TV channels, the radio stations etc. No reason it wouldn’t work.
    I imagine the present incumbents would hate it.


  13. johnnythefish says:

    I wonder if Branson let others play with his train set when he was a kid.


  14. the sheep says:

    Virgin trains are the worst in the entire world to travel on. Overcrowded, smelly and over priced. Thank God they lost the contact!