This story is over 5 years old.


Corbyn's 'Traingate' Is the Most Pernickety Farce in Recent Political History

The train in vain craps mainly on Jez's campaign.

Credit: Virgin Trains

And so, what should have been instead of an easy dig at the past 25 years of insane ticket prices and constant overcrowding, has turned into a debate has become a referendum on whether Mrs Miggins in 42C had her bag on 42B, all because the Corbyn camp seem unable to book an advance ticket with seat reservation.

In case you don't have a "Corbyn media crisis" alert on your phone, welcome to Traingate. Here's how it went down, Jez made a vlog, because the traditional media have failed him and he is a vlogger now, where he sat on the floor of a "ram-packed" Virgin train to make a point about renationalising the railways.


Virgin then released a statement, with accompanying photographs, showing that there were in fact quite a lot of seats avaliable on the train. And since then it has descended into the most pernickety farce in recent political history.

Corbyn's people say that while there may have been seats available in the CCTV footage Virgin Trains have just released, they were being bag-blocked by the inconsiderate and waylaid. Blairite infiltators, probably. Virgin also point out that there were seats reserved but unclaimed. In his most recent statement on the issue, Corbyn said that he had spoken to the train driver who had specially arranged for two seats to become available. Both sides agree that by 11:40AM, almost an hour into his journey, Corbyn had been seated.

Whatever the exact facts are, there has certainly been a little funny business going on. The floor was not the only option. There were places he could have sat. Even Jeremy admits there were single free seats that he turned down because he wanted to talk to his wife, and that the train driver offered to upgrade him to First Class.

This sort of political truth-bending is bad for most, but it's much much worse if your key move is to set yourself up as a secular saint. The train video were his best piece of saint-porn yet: Corbyn sat in the gangway between carriages with a coffee and Private Eye, slumming it like us proles. What's more, it emerged only a few days after someone had taken a picture of Corbyn on a stuffed night bus, grimly hanging onto one of those plastic handrails, wearing the familiar expression of a man only one unscheduled Aldgate East detour away from spewing.


In the light of the Virgin Fiasco, though, it now feels more like Corbyn's being sent by his PR team on a "candid snap" transport tour of Britain. Did they think they could turn this into a series, a sort of 21st century Edward Hopper collection with Corbyn wearing the same expression of misery throughout? How long before we see Corbyn looking disconsolate on the Megabus to Milton Keynes, reading his beloved Private Eye just in front of a couple watching boxing clips with the sound up on their Samsung Galaxy Tab? Actually, if this is the sort of highly constructed stunt Jeremy's good for, then is he even who he says he is at all? After Traingate, we at least have to consider the possibility he is an entirely fictional character dreamed up by Seamus Milne and Len McLuskey. He could just be The Whispering Padre, the embodiment of Jesus-like socialism, played by a jobbing actor and Casualty bit-part guy from Golders Green called Tony Feltz, who secretly orders dinner from Burger & Lobster every Wednesday then feeds half of it to his charcoal pug called Trevor McDonald. Whatever the truth, the Corbyn brand has taken a hit. After he dissed Richard Branson's right to cream off the profits of the mildly dissed, Branson and his much snappier PR team got to wade in and tell everyone that Corbyn's a liar, with the CCTV to prove it. Up until now the corporate sector hasn't felt that threatened by Corbyn. This was David's first match against Goliath, and Goliath battered the crap out David. Corbyn's best hope now is that the British public will understand something many of his New Labour predecessors have always known – that a lie in the service of their narrative isn't a lie, it's just a temporary reality-override in pursuit of a "deeper truth". At least the public still buys into that deeper truth. Fifty-eight percent of Brits still actively support rail nationalisation, only 17 percent are directly opposed. British people seem aware that the railways wouldn't necessarily be any better if they were returned to public hands. But they also understand that they'd at least feel much better about them being terrible. The terribleness would seem comprehensible. In the same way that Brexit or Trump or the migrant crisis have underlined the extent to which people feel utterly bereft of the simple certainties of 20 years ago, the British public just has never been able to get their heads around how something often ten times more expensive than taking the coach can still feels like being locked in a dank tin pail for the benefit of weirdly-named overlords like Govia, Abellio, Serco, FirstGroup or NXET. It's not about who sat where. It's about anomie and alienation.


Jez is the politics of hope. Never has that been more apparent than in his utterance, midway through his train-floor video: "Hopefully at York some people will get off." Hope. Change (at York for Edinburgh) we can believe in. Yes, modern Britain's rose-eyed optimists are always labouring under the delusion that someone's got to get off at York. It's just that, well, people often end up getting on at York, too, don't they, Jez?


More on VICE:

Momentum's 'Alternative Labour Party Conference' Is No Such Thing

An Urgent Conference on Jeremy Corbyn's Dad Dancing

How to Insult Your Fellow Labour Party Members: A Little Red Glossary