Sir Richard Branson could never be likened to a shrinking violet, but his petulant response to Virgin Rail's loss of the West Coast Mainline franchise does him no favours. His latest gambit – an offer to run the trains on a not-for-profit basis while a review is conducted – smacks of desperation. It also represents a pernicious attempt to set personality and populism against the law.
Whether you like FirstGroup or not – and it is not only Virgin asking whether its numbers add up – it won the franchise after a tendering process that was conducted according to established rules. If Sir Richard believes those rules were bent or broken, he has recourse to the law. If not, it would appear to be Sir Richard who is trying to influence the rules after the fact. A hallmark of a civilised country is that the law is the same for everyone, however wealthy, influential or charismatic. For ministers, or anyone else, to yield to this sort of pressure would be the start of a very slippery slope.Reuse content