Billionaire Richard Branson is coming under fire from politicians and regular citizens alike as the tycoon sought hundreds of millions of pounds in state aid for his Virgin Atlantic airline due to the Covid-19 crunch.
The airline, which does not boast the cash reserves of some of its larger competitors, has been hard-hit by the coronavirus crisis, which has left the aviation sector reeling.
It quickly put its staff on unpaid leave and has led the calls for a state-sponsored bailout of the industry. However, it plans to use the funds to cover fixed costs, rather than to pay its staff, who won’t be getting a paycheck from the company for at least eight weeks.
The news that Branson’s airline applied for hundreds of millions of pounds worth of state money, despite not paying its workers, sparked an avalanche of criticism of the billionaire on Saturday and he quickly trended on Twitter in the UK.
Hi #RichardBranson, can you send me a full list of all your businesses please? Because I’m going to BOYCOTT EVERY FUCKING ONE— Mike (@artmichapp) March 28, 2020
Green Party peer Natalie Bennett led the criticism, branding Branson the “least deserving” candidate for a bailout. “Richard Branson is already the UK’s largest benefit recipient, and least deserving… No bailout for [the] man who I’m sure just lives in a tax haven for weather,” she wrote.
Once upon a time my old headteacher gave a school assembly on Richard Branson being a brilliant role model. Hopefully one positive change from this era will be that no-one has to endure an assembly like that again.— Matt Haig (@matthaig1) March 28, 2020
Broadcaster India Willoughby added:
Trying to figure out why a billionaire who sued the NHS, lives in a hammock, pays no UK tax and builds spaceships wants you and me to bail him out.
The billionaire island-dweller has surely developed a thick skin over the years but the level of scrutiny on him has ratcheted up significantly during the pandemic. Less than two weeks ago, shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald said it was a “disgrace” that a company owned by a billionaire asked its employees to “live without wages for two months in the middle of a crisis.”
If your company isn’t registered in the UK, you should get no bailouts. #RichardBranson If your business model does not allow for contingencies/lacks insurance, you should get no bailouts.If normal people “save for a rainy day”, so should corporations.— Legion (@VenousRising) March 28, 2020
#RichardBranson is all that is bad about the UK. He owns a bloody Island and is asking for a hand out from the UK Govt when there are people who currently don’t have any money to buy food for their family! Sell your Island Richard and pay your staff and stop being a dick.— Maggie Georgeson (@GeorgesonMaggie) March 28, 2020
He even attracted the ire of Richard Fuller, a sitting member of parliament for the business-friendly Conservative Party. Fuller urged the mogul to give up the interest on his wealth for eight weeks in order to pay his staff.
“When it comes to looking at the protection of your workers, the time is now, and we will judge you all by your actions,” he said to Branson during a speech in the House of Commons.
Branson has yet to take the MP for North East Bedfordshire up on the suggestion.
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