Virgin Trains staff 'told passenger his pro-EU t-shirt belonged in the bin'

PUBLISHED: 09:08 28 March 2019 | UPDATED: 09:08 28 March 2019

Simon Birch (r), in the EU t-shirt that was rubbished by a Virgin Trains cleaner, and partner Charlie Sherrington (l)

Simon Birch (r), in the EU t-shirt that was rubbished by a Virgin Trains cleaner, and partner Charlie Sherrington (l)

Simon Birch

A Remainer returning from the People's Vote march has said a Virgin Trains cleaner told him his pro-EU t-shirt should be thrown in the bin.

Simon Birch was returning home to Manchester from London on Sunday after marching alongside 1m fellow Brexit protestors in the capital the previous day.

The 57-year-old said the train was pulling into Manchester when the cleaner for Virgin Trains - founded by anti-Brexit campaigner Sir Richard Branson - made his unprovoked comments.

Virgin Trains has said they are looking into his complaints.

Mr Birch, a freelance journalist, said: “We’re approaching Manchester and what normally happens, the cleaners sweep through the train - we were in the quiet coach at the top end, so we were the last ones to be reached by the cleaner - and he was saying ‘any more rubbish, any more rubbish?’.

“And he saw my t-shirt and he said ‘oh, well that can go in the rubbish bin, can’t it?’.

“It was like woah, really unexpected.

“Normally you’d pass it off as banter. If it was in a pub, fine, or in a gents’ changing room, fine, but you don’t really expect that in a Virgin staff employee.

“I was so shocked. Normally I’m a bit of a gobshite but it’s like ‘wow, where did that come from?’.”

Mr Birch, who was travelling with partner Charlie Sherrington, 52, said his t-shirt was not even particularly provocative.

“It was just an EU flag. It was just one of those blue t-shirts,” he said.

“It wasn’t like ‘up yours’ or ‘Leavers are morons’ or anything like that. It was just a straightforward pro-EU t-shirt.”

He said he understood it was at the lower end of abuse aimed at Remainers but was still part of a wider pattern.

“I wasn’t told to swing from the nearest tree, like the likes of Anna Soubry and Gina Miller get daily,” he said.

“But what I do think the story is I think we’re seeing increasing occasions of people just getting this kind of low-level abuse and banter, and people just think it’s acceptable to go and point out the fact that you’re wearing an EU t-shirt and you’re mad.”

A businessman yesterday said he was detained at Gatwick Airport after being ordered to remove an anti-Brexit badge by a member of staff at passport control.

Eddie Brinsmead-Stockham said when he refused to take off the ‘Bollocks to Brexit’ badge he was taken to a holding area without his passport.

And earlier this week it emerged an opera singer, Anna Patalong, had been asked to change her EU flag-themed dress for a concert at London’s Royal Albert Hall.

Mr Birch said: “I think we’re getting a pattern and my feeling is that people are getting this all the time but they’re just letting it pass.”

He has taken his complaint up with Virgin Trains.

“Some people might get really upset, there might be other issues next time - I just think that needs to be nipped in the bud,” he said.

“I mean, I don’t want the guy to lose his job - jeez, you know - just to say ‘look, you just don’t do that, it isn’t part of your brief, it’s not acceptable’.

“I was shocked, I was surprised, I was disappointed, my partner was quite upset.”

Sir Richard has been a firm opponent of Brexit, just this week saying, despite a delay to Brexit, the UK was “dangerously close to full-scale disaster”.

He also criticised prime minister Theresa May for “no longer acting in the national interest” and putting party before country.

In a blogpost on the Virgin website, the businessman also claimed many who voted Leave had changed their minds.

A Virgin Trains spokesman said: “The customer has contacted us on social media regarding this and we are looking into it.”

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