By Tim Montgomerie
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The Westminster village went crazy this afternoon – yes, even crazier than normal. Tweets from one ITV reporter suggested that the Chancellor was trying to blag his way into a First Class train coach on the Virgin service to London Euston while only holding a standard class ticket. The worst was believed of the Chancellor and accusations of fare dodging, arrogance and cheating were thrown around with reckless abandon. Five Live covered the story at length. BBC correspondents and press reporters rushed to Euston to 'doorstep' the Chancellor as he disembarked.
There was just one problem with the whole story. It wasn't true. Here's a statement just been issued from Virgin trains:
"Rt Hon George Osborne, Chancellor, was travelling on Virgin Trains’ 15:11 Wilmslow to London Euston service this afternoon (19 October).
The Chancellor, who was travelling in First Class accommodation, held a Standard Class ticket. As soon as the train left Wilmslow an aide went to find the Train Manager to explain the situation and arrange to pay for an upgrade. It was agreed that the Chancellor would remain in First Class and an amount of £189.50 was paid by the aide to cover the upgrade for Mr Osborne and his PA.
The situation was dealt with amicably between the Train Manager and George Osborne’s aide. At no time was there a disagreement or a refusal to pay for the upgrade. Nor was there any discussion between the Train Manager and Mr Osborne."
In other words – according to Virgin (and the cynics will obviously disbelieve the Virgin statement) it was a complete non-story but it didn't stop the Westminster Twitterati wetting itself. Pathetic really.