MICHAEL Gove has defended the co-owner of GB News over allegations he liked “incendiary” far-right tweets attacking Muslims.

Paul Marshall, who co-owns the right-wing news channel alongside Dubai-based firm Legatum, was alleged to have liked a number of anti-Muslim tweets, including some which accused Muslims of seeking to “conquer” Britain, in an investigation by the anti-extremism group Hope Not Hate.

Unveiling the Government’s new definition of extremism – which would ban organisations ministers deem to be fundamentally opposed to “British values” from interacting with or receiving funding from the UK Government – Gove was challenged on whether Marshall’s alleged endorsement of anti-Muslim views would see him branded an “extremist.

Gove defended the media mogul – who once donated to the minister’s failed 2016 Tory leadership bid and another £500,000 to the Conservatives in 2019 – saying he was a “distinguished philanthropist”.

Labour backbencher Andy Slaughter said: “This tweet was liked by Sir Paul Marshall, ‘Civil war is coming. There has never been a country that has remained peaceful with a sizable Islamic presence. Once the Muslims get to 15 to 20% of the population, the current cold civil war will turn hot.’

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“Many other incendiary tweets were liked or retweeted by Marshall, a substantial donor to both the Tory party and the Secretary of State personally, according to a recent Hope Not Hate [and] News Agents investigation.

“How does the Secertary of State square his definition of extremism with accepting money from someone like Marshall?”

Gove replied: “I deprecate the attack on Sir Paul Marshall, who is a distinguished philanthropist and a supporter of Ark Academies – which are state schools that have done so much, including in [Slaughter’s] constituency, to improve the lives of disadvantaged children from a variety of minority backgrounds.”

The Communities Secretary found himself under fire from across the political spectrum on Thursday as he announced the Government’s revised definition of extremism.

Groups involved in organising the weekly pro-Palestine marches across Britain accused him of stoking division and inciting Islamophobia.

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But criticism also came from his own party, with former minister Kit Malthouse saying the new guidelines would have a “chilling impact” in freedom of speech – raising concerns about the difficulties organisations will face if they want to challenge being labelled “extremist”.

He said: “Is there really to be no appeal process in this branding of particular groups as unacceptable?

“Not least because, as he will I am sure intend, putting them on a Government blacklist effectively will have a chilling impact more widely on their place in society from financial services, to the media, who is likely to engage with them.”

Marshall has previously denied allegations of Islamophobia.