Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson weighed in on the debate regarding Virgin Trains' decision to stop selling the right-wing Daily Mail tabloid. (Photo by: Leon Neal/Getty Images)

BRITISH Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson hit out Wednesday (10) at what he termed the “pompous, censorious” decision by Richard Branson’s Virgin Trains to stop selling the right-wing Daily Mail tabloid.

The train operator is no longer stocking copies on board following concerns among staff about the way the mass-selling newspaper reports on issues such as immigration and gay rights.

In response, the Mail accused Virgin Trains of politically-motivated censorship, implying that its pro-Brexit stance was at odds with that of Branson, the British tycoon who created the Virgin Group.

Johnson weighed into the row on Wednesday, tweeting: “Absurd ban on Daily Mail by Virgin! Pompous, censorious and wrong #virginontheridiculous”.

However, the move was welcomed by the campaign group Stop Funding Hate, which seeks to persuade firms to cease advertising with right-wing publications.

In the memo to staff in November, which was made public on Tuesday, Virgin Trains said: “There’s been considerable concern raised by colleagues about The Daily Mail’s editorial position on issues such as immigration, LGBT rights and unemployment.

“After due consideration, we’ve decided that this particular paper is not at all compatible with the VT brand and our beliefs.”

The Daily Mail responded that it had been informed that the company was restricting sales to just three newspapers — the Daily Mirror, Financial Times and the Times — “to save space”.

It added: “They gave no other reason, but it may be no coincidence that all those titles, like Virgin owner Sir Richard Branson, are pro-Remain,” meaning they all opposed Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.

Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman said it was the company’s decision, but added: “She has always been clear on the importance of a free press to our democracy and our society.”

Stop Funding Hate was part of a successful social media campaign last year to persuade stationery and card company Paperchase to break links with the Daily Mail after it ran a front-page promotion.

“The Daily Mail is free to print what it likes within the law,” the organisation said Wednesday, adding: “Virgin Trains is free to choose which newspaper it does or doesn’t stock.

“Having recognised that the Daily Mail’s coverage runs contrary to its values, we hope that Virgin will now publicly commit to ending its advertising with this newspaper.”

© AFP