Opinion: Why punish my staff for my political views?


- Credit: Carmen Valino - on shift

During the Brexit campaign, having been active on the Leave side, doing radio and TV interviews, I must have received about twenty messages from customers, or those purporting to be customers, saying they will never buy Forman’s smoked salmon again.

Now you may be thinking, wouldn’t it have been better for my business, if I’d stayed quiet.

And maybe so, but I felt that this is one of the most important decisions our country is making and with small businesses between them being the largest employers in the country, if as business owners we don’t make our views known, the debate would be worse for it.

I spoke to many other small business owners, asking whether they would take an interview in my place, and they all said ‘no’, fearful of upsetting half their customers.

For the Forman’s boycotters, I made a point of personally phoning each and everyone one of them to explain my views.

I wanted to reassure them that I have no problem with immigration whatsoever and that my concerns with the EU are purely economic, stemming from what I believe is a dysfunctional currency, the Euro, which will ultimately bring Europe down.

I also explained that my decision to support Leave was nothing to do with my business whatsoever, and indeed it may be disadvantageous to me short term, so why punish my staff because of my personal views on economic matters. Following those conversations, most agreed they would continue to buy Forman’s smoked salmon, and I reckon about 75 per cent even switched to the Leave side of the argument!

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I also made the point that I wouldn’t boycott Virgin trains, just because Richard Branson, was an arch-Remainer.

So what of his decision to ban the sale of the Daily Mail on his trains, because “it is not compatible with our beliefs”. This is a step too far in my view.

What does he mean by “our beliefs”? The beliefs of all Virgin shareholders, or all their staff? Has he surveyed them?

This is nothing to do with their beliefs; it’s a typical publicity stunt by Branson, of which he is master. He has gained massive publicity, worth millions in advertising revenue for making a commercial decision which costs the business nothing. Genius.

At the same time he is exacting some revenge on a newspaper has been attempting to draw him in on sex scandals in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein revelations. It will be interesting to see how the Mail reacts.