London (AFP) – British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn faced accusations of dishonesty Tuesday after footage emerged apparently contradicting his claim that he was forced to sit on a train floor after failing to find a seat.
The embattled veteran socialist released a video last week in which he claimed that an overcrowded train proved private ownership of railway services did not work.
But Virgin Trains responded on Tuesday with CCTV showing empty seats and Corbyn — at one point — in a seat.
Mockery quickly ensued on social media and the row was dubbed “#traingate”, reflecting the bitter leadership battle that is currently dividing the Labour Party.
Virgin boss Richard Branson — a flamboyant billionaire — even tweeted one of the photos of Corbyn on his company’s London to Newcastle service.
Virgin said in a statement that the footage showed that “Mr Corbyn and his team walked past empty, unreserved seats in coach H before walking through the rest of the train to the far end, where his team sat on the floor and started filming”.
Corbyn’s team responded with its own press release, saying: “When Jeremy boarded the train he was unable to find unreserved seats, so he sat with other passengers in the corridor who were also unable to find a seat”.
“Passengers across Britain will have been in similar situations on overcrowded, expensive trains.”
Corbyn was travelling to Newcastle to debate MP Owen Smith as part of the pair’s battle for the leadership of the party, voting for which opened on Monday.
Smith mounted the leadership challenge after 80 percent of Labour MPs went against Corbyn in a recent no-confidence vote. However, Corbyn retains the support of trade unions and many grassroots members.
Smith tweeted Tuesday that his “campaign remains on track”.