Paul Marshall’s hateful ‘likes’ make him unfit to be a media mogul

He owns GB News and is in pole position to win control of the Telegraph. But leaked tweets reveal a man with views that should give us—and Ofcom—serious concerns

February 23, 2024
Paul Marshall. Image: Flickr
Paul Marshall’s social media activity has been revealed. Image: Flickr

It is, we are told, a matter of some national importance that His Majesty’s Daily Telegraph should not fall into the wrong hands. It has been widely debated whether Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mansour, while a successful owner of Manchester City, should be allowed near the hallowed newsroom.

But what about Sir Paul Marshall?

Until recently, few outside the magic circle of hedge fund managers had heard of Sir Paul, who was quietly amassing a fortune said to be north of £600m. But then he started showing signs of wanting to be a mini-Rupert Murdoch, and people began to pay attention. 

First he launched a commentary website, UnHerd, to air views that we are encouraged to call “heterodox”—though many consider the mix to lean markedly to the right. Then, together with the Dubai-based organisation Legatum, he launched GB News, a vehicle for assorted right-wing politicians, culture warriors and anti-woke crackpots. And now he is reported to be eyeing up the Telegraph, along with its stablemate, the Spectator

If the campaign against Sheikh Mansour is successful—and the bid has been called in for official evaluation—Sir Paul is in pole position to end up owning both a highly opinionated TV station and one of the most influential Tory newspapers. A mini-Murdoch indeed. But what are his views, and why does he want this kind of influence? 

Thanks to some enterprising work by the News Agents podcast and campaigners Hope not Hate this week, we have a little window into Sir Paul’s preoccupations and obsessions. It is not a pretty sight.

It turns out that Sir Paul put restrictions on who could view his Twitter/X account (@areopagus123) last September—around the time he came under wider scrutiny for his interest in the Telegraph. But someone among his nearly 5,000 followers has performed the public service of cataloguing—and now leaking—the kind of content he has in recent months “liked” and reposted. 

It includes content that is at the extreme end of mainstream political opinion about Islam, the expulsion of migrants and homosexuality. It includes a tweet that declared that it’s “a matter of time before civil war starts in Europe. The native European population is losing patience with fake refugee invaders.” Last month he “liked” a tweet which said “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.” 

He has liked or reposted @WordbyWolf, an anti-Muslim account, 16 times this year—including the sentiment that the prophet Muhammad was “one of the worst men ever to live.” He seems keen to endorse or amplify (by reposting) the views of @AmyMek, who promulgates a version of the ugly conspiracy-based Great Replacement Theory, which warns of “the four stages of Islamic conquest” and states that Muslim immigration is a form of “infiltration” that will lead to “the establishment of a totalitarian Islamic theocracy”.

According to Hope not Hate, a post Marshall retweeted in February appeared to group homosexuality with “worshipping Satan, evil [and] corrupting children”, referring to the other side as “demons”, while in January he “liked” a post from RadioGenoa that lauded Hungary’s autocratic prime minister Viktor Orbán as a “true leader” for his anti-migrant and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric.

Sir Paul has not denied this pattern of liking and retweeting, but says this is a “small and unrepresentative” sample of his posts which does not reflect his views. He’s now deleted the extremist material he’s endorsed or spread. Hope not Hate says that, in fact, around a quarter of the material Sir Paul has liked or retweeted this year is extremist.

Enoch Powell was sacked by Edward Heath from his position as shadow defence secretary in 1968 for his inflammatory “rivers of blood” speech, which was comparatively mild stuff. A factor in Heath’s mind was the backlash even from normally conservative newspapers.

But look where the right now is—with former prime minister Liz Truss telling former White House wingnut Steve Bannon only yesterday that the Economist and Financial Times are “friends of the Deep State”, and former home secretary Suella Braverman claiming that “Islamists... are in charge now” and urging a fightback “if we are to have any chance of saving our country from the mob.”

If Sir Paul manages to add the Telegraph to his ownership of GB News, he will be holding the ring as the future of conservative politics is savagely fought out in the wake of what most assume will be a Labour victory at the coming election. Don’t expect much nuance or restraint. I anticipate it will make Enoch Powell’s rhetoric sound like Songs of Praise

There’s probably not much that can be done to stop him—though the absence of so much as a squeak of concern from those who have protested most loudly at the prospect of Sheikh Mansour owning the titles is noticeable. The only person in recent times to have been stopped from owning a title on “fit and proper” grounds was in the early nineties, when David Sullivan, known as “the munchkin porn baron”, was prevented from buying the Bristol Evening News.

That precedent didn’t stand in the way of another soft porn baron, Richard Desmond, getting his hands on the Express in 2002. Since then, we have had a range of crooks, swindlers, megalomaniacs and oddballs becoming press barons. We call it a free press.

But maybe the sleepyheads at Ofcom, who are supposed to be regulating GB News, might now wake up and realise the ultimate nature and purpose of Marshall’s ownership of this channel.

So far—despite announcing a number of inquiries into specific programmes and the odd feather duster tickled across the channel’s knuckles—Ofcom has smiled indulgently at the nightly parade of opinionated talking heads. 

A fifth former can see that there is no pretence at impartiality, with a team sheet that stretches all the way from Jacob Rees-Mogg to Nigel Farage via Lee Anderson, Neil Oliver and Richard Tice. But Ofcom has so far pretended not to notice. 

Now we have been allowed an insight into Sir Paul’s mind—and the sort of views he personally endorses and spreads—perhaps the penny will drop at Ofcom. Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News was allowed to pollute American political discourse, with the appalling consequences we saw with the 6th January insurrection in 2021.

We have laws that should stop such a thing happening here—but we have a dozing regulator and a government more interested in targeting the BBC while lauding GB News. Perhaps Sir Paul’s tweets might wake someone up.