‘There are no pockets in shrouds, but there are in a Caribbean-island-owning billionaire’, as the old saying goes. Or at least that's how it goes if you’re Richard Branson. His pockets are very deep indeed.
In his latest attempt to wrangle yet more money out of the state, the airline and telecoms tycoon has requested a government loan of £500 million to help prop up his struggling Virgin Atlantic. Meanwhile, he is looking to find a buyer...at the right price of course. With the Virgin group in big trouble, Branson is looking for a little help from his Tory friends.
Richard Branson is worth almost £5bn.— Alan Ferrier (@alanferrier) April 20, 2020
He says his airline needs a £500m government bailout.
If only there was a simple solution to this perplexing conundrum.
However, there are a few problems with this new request for public money. Firstly, the man is a notorious tax exile, having officially moved to the British Virgin Islands 14 years ago. This alone should surely exclude him from any form of government help, you would think. However, Branson knows that he is dealing with a Tory government that has one set of rules for the super-rich and quite a different set for the rest.
The Virgin boss has an estimated wealth of £4.7 billion, making him the UK’s seventh richest person. It is obscene and sickening that a man with such personal wealth now has the nerve to ask for any kind of loan from the public purse, let alone one so massive .
What is even more shameless is that - whilst simultaneously demanding a handout to pad his already hefty bank balance - he now asks workers on Virgin airlines to take unpaid leave or redundancy.
Secondly, his attitude towards the NHS has been deplorable. This is the man who sued the NHS after his company rightly lost a contract and he found himself having to take a financial hit, for once. And yet he is now asking for public money to help fund his business empire!
Interestingly, Virgin Care has picked up £2 billion pounds worth of healthcare contracts, yet has somehow avoided paying any corporation tax.
Branson’s hypocrisy and cynicism shows no limits. In fact, he himself argued against state intervention in the past. In 2009, he said the government should wait for British Airways’ possible demise, rather than give the struggling company a bailout. The fact that Virgin would have benefited from the collapse of such a major competitor had nothing to do with this opinion, of course.
The capitalists have forever told us that the invisible hand of the market is the best mechanism to manage the economy. But now all these same ladies and gentlemen are now calling for state aid to help their businesses.
If the establishment really believed in the free market and all it supposedly does for our society, then surely Virgin Atlantic deserves to go down also? The truth is that whilst job losses and pay cuts mean nothing to these people, the loss of profits means an awful lot.
‘All in this together’
Branson’s actions and double-standards are so blatant that even other representatives of big business are having to distance themselves from this naked greed. And so the likes of Simon Cowell and Duncan Bannatyne have both criticised his call for a loan.
Totally agree with this! Richard Branson will do anything not to pay U.K. Tax - sues our NHS now wants TaxPayer funds to bail him out! Do one! Fair play to #SimonCowell & #DuncanBannatyne blasts Richard Branson for seeking a £500m bailout https://t.co/JG4DbAPtsZ via @MailOnline— Jemm (@js_josephina) April 22, 2020
Even the Tories, in the form of Richard Fuller, Conservative MP for North East Bedfordshire, have politely told Branson to “pay your employees yourself their unpaid leave”.
Of course, it’s not that the parasite Cowell or the ex-TV dragon Bannatyne have a particularly high moral character. They just know this is bad PR for capitalism. They would much rather try to propagate this myth that we are ‘all in this together’. In reality, of course, the rich have easy and quick access to health care and testing, whereas the rest of us just have to struggle by.
The government should intervene to save jobs and protect workers affected by the economic collapse. But this must not mean massive loans and bailouts to big business and the super-rich. Rather, the labour movement should be calling for struggling companies to be nationalised under workers’ control.
The bosses have screwed over workers and grossly mismanaged their own companies - and now, it seems, have attempted to squeeze money from the public purse as well. Instead of this incompetence and exploitation, we need to take these monopolies out of the capitalists’ hands, and run them in the interests of society as a whole.