Billionaire and Virgin Trains boss Richard Branson best look away now as the Labour Party makes him the target of ridicule in a comedy skit.
Setting out Labour’s stall for re-nationalisation of railways is an actor who looks suspiciously like the blond-maned, tie-loathing magnate, in a video shared from Jeremy Corbyn’s official Twitter page.
The tweet reads: “We asked a billionaire about our plans to slash rail fares by 33%. He wasn’t happy.”
In the two minutes and 22 seconds-long sketch, Branson is joined by a comedy butler as he attempts to prove that a private system of national rail is “the right way to go” – while doing anything but.
As his butler makes him cocktails and he lounges in luxury, the Branson lookalike says: “Not many people know this but UK taxpayers pay six times more in public subsidies than they did before privatisation.
“In just over a five year period, Virgin’s West Coast mainline received £2.7 billion in subsidies and yet kept £500 million in profits. Wonderful, isn’t it?
“The Government invests taxpayers money on rail infrastructure like trains, tracks, tunnels and bridges, all that necessary stuff. We, however, get to run the things that make money, like train tickets and food.
“So the taxpayer pays, the passenger pays, and we collect.”
He’s then handed a crown on a cushion, before the sketch cuts to the billionaire firing darts at a famous painting – The Scream by Edvard Munch – as his butler holds it and cowers behind, trying to avoid the flying darts.
The Scream is an iconic image, symbolising the agony and anxiety of the human condition, and the decision to include it in this sketch will be have been taken at random.
The lookalike goes on: “Because of the fragmented rail system, we can make the buying of tickets far more complicated and therefore expensive. A study of cross country tickets found that passengers could have saved £85 if they’d bought single tickets along the same route, and all those little extras mean more money in the bank.
“In 2011, Great Western Railway still had left three years left on their lease, and owed over £800 million to the government.
“They decided, rather than pay the money that was owed, they would walk out on their contract. The Tory Government was so keen to let them carry on they reduced this debt to just £32 million.”
In another shot the buffoonish butler is lying on the floor by the fireplace and holding a golf tee with golfball in his mouth as Branson swings a shot – a cliché of several gangster films.
He goes on: “Train companies can make a tonne of money, yet we aren’t doing anything the public can’t do themselves.
“After yet another company walked out of its contract, East Coast Mainline was put back into public control. It was a huge success, but thankfully the tory government put it back into private hands
“Now that, was a close one!”
Towards the end of the video, the butler performs an odd dance while holding a peacock feather as Branson claps.
“As you can see, privatisation has been great for anyone who runs a rail company, or who has shares in a rail company,” adds Branson.
“And with the Tory Government wanting to privatise even more things, like the NHS, this gravy train will run forever…”