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Millionaire church financier deletes right-wing posts

23 February 2024

Matthew Dalhousie/Creative Commons

Sir Paul Marshall speaking at the ARC Forum last October

Sir Paul Marshall speaking at the ARC Forum last October

SIR PAUL MARSHALL, the hedge-fund manager and co-owner of GB News who sits on the board of HTB’s Church Revitalisation Trust has deleted all of his posts on X (formerly Twitter) after an investigation highlighted that he had liked and retweeted anti-Muslim tweets.

The investigation, carried out by Hope not Hate — a charity that opposes far-Right extremism — was published this week and broadcast by The News Agents podcast. It reported that last year Sir Paul had changed his X username to @areopagus123, which “matches that of a company set up by Marshall in 2021, Areopagus Ventures, and which seems to derive from Marshall’s interest in Areopagitica, John Milton’s polemic in defence of free speech”.

One post “liked” by the account read: “It is just a matter of time before civil war starts in Europe. The native European population is losing patience with the fake refugee invaders.” Another read: “If we want European civilization to survive we need to not just close the borders but start mass expulsions immediately. We don’t stand a chance unless we start that process very soon.”

The account had “liked” a number of posts from an account called Worldbywolf, one of which warned that “There has never been a country that has remained peaceful with a sizeable Islamic presence. . . Once the Muslims get to 15-20% of the population the current cold civil war will turn hot.”

The account retweeted a post from Amy Mek which warned of “The four stages of Islamic conquest”, stating that Muslim immigration was a form of “infiltration” that would lead to “the establishment of a totalitarian Islamic theocracy”.

Another post retweeted referred to “Pascal’s wager in the 21st century”: “God may or may not be real, but the other side is so passionate, so committed to worshipping Satan, evil, homosexuality and corrupting children, that even if god wasn’t real, believing in him to fend these demons off is preferable.”

Hope not Hate reported that, after approaching Sir Paul for comment, all of his tweets and almost 300 likes were removed from the account. A statement said: “Paul Marshall’s account is private but is nonetheless followed by 5000 people including many journalists. He posts on a wide variety of subjects and those cited represent a small and unrepresentative sample of over 5000 posts. This sample does not represent his views.

“As most X/Twitter users know, it can be a fountain of ideas, but some of it is of uncertain quality and all his posts have now been deleted to avoid any further misunderstanding.”

Sir Paul is the founder, chief investment officer, and chairman of Marshall Wace LLP, one of Europe’s leading hedge-fund groups. The Sunday Times Rich List has estimated that he has a fortune of £800 million.

He is the founder and owner of Unherd Media, which seeks to “push back against the herd mentality with new and bold thinking” — including among its columnists Canon Giles Fraser — and a co-owner of GB News, established in 2021 and home to presenters that include Nigel Farage and, until recently, the Revd Calvin Robinson (News, 27 May 2022). He is understood to be preparing a bid to buy The Telegraph and The Spectator.

Once a Liberal Democrat candidate and donor, he shifted his loyalty to the Conservative Party in 2016, becoming a prominent donor to the Leave campaign in the Brexit referendum.

The focus of his philanthropy has been education. He is a founding trustee of Ark, the children’s charity, and chairman of Ark Schools, which manages 39 primary and secondary academies across England, mainly in areas of economic disadvantage.

Sir Paul has worshipped at Holy Trinity, Brompton, since 1997, and was a member of the board of St Paul’s Theological Centre, one of the founding partners of St Mellitus, for which he is a donor. Today, he sits on the board of the Church Revitalisation Trust (CRT), incorporated as a charity in 2017 “to further the church planting activity which was previously undertaken by Holy Trinity Brompton” (Features, 21 April 2017). Within its network are more than 100 congregations, plus 30 larger resource churches.

Under the Church of England’s Strategic Development Programme, millions of pounds were allocated by the Church Commissioners to fund plants in the network. An independent review of SDF recorded that 14 per cent of all funds had gone to projects exclusively run by Revitalise (Church Revitalisation) Trust (CRT), and a further 29 per cent to projects in which CRT was involved along with churches of other traditions (News, 10 November, 2023).

The partnership is expected to continue under the new stream of Commissioners’ funding: Strategic Mission and Ministry Investment. Last year, the diocese of Manchester reported that a £3.6-million grant would go towards a “major new church” located in the city centre of Manchester, in partnership with the Church Revitalisation Trust (News, 31 March 2023).

The CRT also runs a number of programmes connected to ministerial formation in the Church of England: the Peter Stream, which seeks to support people from under-represented groups in the discernment process (across racial, social and educational lines) and the Caleb Stream, a one-year pathway to ordination for “mature and experienced leaders”. It also runs Accelerate, a programme for final-year curates preparing to plant or revitalise a church in the HTB Network.

Another strand of its work is “Love Your Neighbour”, an initiative launched during the Covid-19 pandemic that seeks to “equip churches to be at the leading edge of social transformation in their local area” (News, 10 July 2020).

It was confirmed on Friday that Sir Paul is a donor to the Centre for Cultural Witness, the initiative set up at Lambeth Palace to communicate the Church’s “profound and transforming” story to the public (News, 18 February 2022), and which runs the Seen and Unseen blog.

Sir Paul is a key figure in Conservative Christian circles in the UK. He launched Unherd in 2017 in partnership with Tim Montgomerie, a founder of the Conservative Christian Fellowship. The other main shareholder in GB News is Christopher Chandler, a Christian New Zealand businessman who funds the Legatum Institute, a libertarian thinktank. The former chief executive of Legatum is Baroness Philipa Stroud, who sits alongside Sir Paul on the advisory board of the Alliance for Responsible Citizenship (News, 17 November 2023), a charity with an ambition to “draw on our moral, cultural, economic and spiritual foundations to imagine a future where empowered citizens take responsibility and work together to bring flourishing and prosperity to their homes, communities, and beyond.”

In a recent essay for the Alliance, Sir Paul wrote: “Sometimes it feels like our civilisation is intent on forgetting the virtues upon which it is founded: Every human soul is sacred; We should love our neighbours as ourselves; With rights come responsibilities; With privilege, comes duty.” The answer to contemporary challenges could be found, he wrote, “with ourselves, in human ingenuity and innovation, in the extraordinary creativity of free markets, in the free association of like-minded people”.

He received his knighthood in 2016 for services to education and philanthropy. Founded with one school in 2006, Ark has a track record of improving results in struggling schools that join its network. In 2020, it reported that 42 per cent of its pupils were eligible for the Pupil Premium Grant, compared to a national average of 25 per cent, while 82 per cent of sixth-formers gained a higher-education place, compared with a national average of 59 per cent. Many of its schools are based in areas with large UK Minority Ethnic populations, including Ark Boulton Academy in Sparkhill, an area of Birmingham with a majority Muslim population.

In 2021, Sir Paul’s son, Winston Marshall, left the band Mumford and Sons after an online backlash to a tweet in which he praised a book by Andy Ngo, Unmasked: Inside Antifa’s radical plan to destroy democracy. In a blog post, Winston Marshall wrote: “I could remain and continue to self-censor but it will erode my sense of integrity.”

The Church Times approached Sir Paul for comment.

Read more on this story in Andrew Brown’s Press column here

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