You are here:Home/Rant/Is Richard Branson now Anticool?
News that Branson is bankrolling the uber remoaner Gina Miller is confirmation that he’s lost his cool credentials.
Richard Branson made business cool. We’ve seen him hanging from hot air balloons, sinking speed boats in the middle of the atlantic Atlantic, launching businesses against the odds, watched as he gambled time and time a gain on his empire, the epitome of up-yours anti establishment do-it my-way business cool. Branson has spent his whole life throwing the chips in the air and time and time again they’ve come down on his side. Sure there’s been a few bumps in the road, Virgin Cola, Virgin Brides, the creepy overuse of drag in his PR stunts, but we’ve forgiven him for those because he’s a chancer, a fighter, a boy done good. He has a crack, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t and then he’s up again having another crack.
Even Bransons dubious embrace of Green Issues were waved through (“I’m green, but made my billions from running an airline company, possibly the most environmentally unfriendly business activity in human history”) because he’d obviously spotted a bandwagon and, well, Branson jumps on bandwagons. That’s his thing. His front, his brazen opportunism is part of his appeal and were willing to give him a pass on the hypocrisy because, you know, it’s Branson.
So with Brexit I would have thought that Branson, who built a British globally renowned brand from nothing, would have come out of the traps fighting for Britain. James Dyson of the vacuum cleaner empire is cut from similar cloth, odds continuously stacked against him, less flamboyant, but similarly driven, similarly pluckish. Dyson took off his jacket, rolled up the sleeves and went in to fight for a sovereign Britain. But Branson has gone the other way. He threw his lot in with the remain side and has now gone one step further: He’s not only signed up to the winging denialists that are the Remoaners but he’s ponied up cash to back the ghastly Gina Miller, the entitled elite mouthpiece who’s trying to frustrate Brexit. I’m not going to dwell on Miller apart from to say that her unpopularity isn’t about her skin colour or origins in Guyana, it’s the full stack hypocrisy on display; if you believe so fervently in democracy you should take the time to stand and be counted in an election not throw your husbands millions at thwarting the process. No matter though, the most baffling aspect is that Branson, always with a finger on the pulse, a feeling for zeitgeist, the consummate brand man, has now sided with the most devalued political brands of our time. The likes of Nick Clegg, Tim Farron, Tony Blair, Peter Mandleson and myriad of vested interest liberals who quite liked things the way they are.
And if the brand association is bizarre, the strategy seems equally flawed. Branson positions himself so that his battles are the small guy (him), the interloper, against the mainstream establishment. His whole history has seen this story used over and over again. Virgin Airways David v Goliath launch campaign tore through BA in the eighties running rings round them. It was a master class in positioning.
In a Brexit context, it’s a fait au complit, the country is leaving Europe. The remoaners can only slow things down, they can’t stop it. Complaining about the result is fine. Using your wealth to overturn it is something altogether more sinister and doing it from your offshore tax haven leaves more than a nasty taste in the mouth. Branson has moved so far from his Screw it Let’s Do It MO and whilst the remoaners are an irritant, the betrayal of his own ideals to his army of followers who worship at the feet of our national swashbuckler is one of sadness. Even if he believed in the EU and was on the losing side, his job as the national entrepreneurial treasure is to take the pose EU lemons and then show us how to make lemonade. He should be a beacon of hope, show us the way, move on and tackle the result in the best way, to make Brexit work for Britain. As our a nation’s favourite Entrepreneur he knows that what business wants is certainty, continually thwarting the efforts of something that is going to happen provides the diametric opposite. Perhaps in the end as he slips out of the limelight we are seeing the true Branson. The Branson who is only out for Branson and this is when we saw it.