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Winston Marshall quit Mumford & Sons to spare his bandmates being ‘dragged under bus’

Winston Marshall today said he quit Mumford & Sons to spare his bandmates from being ‘dragged under a bus’ by the ‘cancel culture viral mob’ – as he admitted his ‘apology’ for a tweet praising a US Conservative journalist ‘felt like a lie’. 

The banjo player, 33, who was subjected to a deluge of abuse for praising Andy Ngo’s book on the far-Left group Antifa movement, said he felt he had to leave to stop the ‘horrible negativity’ towards his bandmates for something they had ‘nothing to do with’.

Mr Marshall, who quit the band last week, told BBC Radio 4 today: ‘In the public eye we were a unit and that’s what I suppose these internet mobs do.

‘They go for all those people around you and that’s what I think as so troubling for me about the experience was to see my friends get dragged under the bus with me which is not fair on them.

‘It felt like very distracting unwanted attention and possibly damaging for the brand of the band. That’s why I’ve decided I should let them be.’

Winston Marshall in New York with his ex-wife Dianna Agron. Picture taken on March 27, 2018 

Mr Marshall, the son of British hedge fund tycoon Sir Paul Marshall, 61, said his former bandmates were ‘so sweet and stood by me and invited me to continue’.

‘They’ve been perfectly honourable throughout and I’m very grateful for that,’ he said.

‘I still, sort of, obviously regret that this situation even came about and, with hindsight, it was a foolish tweet to have made.

‘But it’s sort of happened and I’m at peace with it, I think.’

The folk rock musician was attacked on social media earlier after calling Mr Ngo’s book ‘important’ and describing the US journalist – who has been attacked while covering street clashes – a ‘brave man’.

However, following a backlash he apologised, saying that he was ‘taking time away from the band to examine my blindspots’.

Today Mr Marshall said he regretted the statement, saying: ‘The apology I put out I felt participated a little bit in the lie that such extremism doesn’t exist. That was really bothering my conscience. 

‘Internally I was quite distraught by that. I felt my integrity being gnawed at and the only way I could square those two things is by this decision I made.’

Mr Marshall said he hoped to be more outspoken on the future about the issues close to him. 

‘Whenever topics so inspire me I hope I can speak about them, whatever those topics may be,’ he said. 

‘I want to be able to speak without those around me, those I love, getting in trouble for that. So whatever those topics might be, if its Hong Kong, if it’s the Uighurs, who knows what’s next. 

‘But I hope to speak freely and that’s a big part of the decision I made.’

Sir Paul Marshall, the Brexit-supporting millionaire hedge fund boss who runs Knightsbridge-based firm Marshall Wace, defended his son

Mumford and Sons banjo player Winston Marshall has quit the folk rock band he co-founded after he was pilloried in public by a 'viral mob' for the 'sin' of praising a conservative journalist on Twitter

The banjo player’s hedge fund tycoon father, Sir Paul Marshall (left), 61, shared his son’s (right) Medium.com essay on Twitter with the caption ‘very proud of my son!’ 

Ngo

On Saturday, fans hit back at Winston and accused him of 'endorsing fascism' when he praised Ngo's new book Unmasked: Inside Antifa's Radical Plan to Destroy Democracy in a now-deleted tweet

Ngo’s (left) book Unmasked claims to expose Antifa – the name for protesters in the US who arrive at far-right marches to oppose them – as a ‘violent extremist movement’. Pictured right: Marshall’s tweet 

It comes after Mr Marshall’s Brexiteer father Sir Paul backed him for quitting the band. 

The investor shared his son’s Medium.com essay on Twitter with the caption: ‘Very proud of my son!’.

In a 1,263-word essay on Medium, the 33-year-old described how his ‘innocuous’ endorsement of Andy Ngo’s book on far-Left extremist group Antifa triggered ‘tens of thousands of angry retweets and comments’.

He said he ‘failed to foresee’ his praise of Unmasked: Inside Antifa’s Radical Plan To Destroy Democracy ‘could be interpreted as approval of the equally abhorrent Far-Right’ and feared it would bring his bandmates ‘more trouble’.

Mr Marshall, who was born and raised in Wandsworth, south London, wrote he could have stayed with the group and ‘continued to self-censor’, but believed it would ‘erode my sense of integrity’.

The band in 2019. Pictured from left to right:  Winston Marshall, Ted Dwane, Marcus Mumford and Ben Lovett

The band in 2019. Pictured from left to right:  Winston Marshall, Ted Dwane, Marcus Mumford and Ben Lovett

Mr Marshall was attacked on social media after tweeting support for US journalist Andy Ngo. In 2015, he married Glee star Dianna Agron, before the couple divorced in August 2020. They are seen together in New York in 2015

Mr Marshall was attacked on social media after tweeting support for US journalist Andy Ngo. In 2015, he married Glee star Dianna Agron, before the couple divorced in August 2020. They are seen together in New York in 2015 

Following allegations he was ‘endorsing Fascism’ – claims he branded ‘ludicrous’ – band members Marcus Mumford, Ben Lovett and Ted Dwane, and their management, reportedly asked him to leave the group.

Despite this, the group posted a message in support of him on Twitter, saying: ‘We wish you all the best for the future, Win, and we love you man. M, B & T.’

In March the banjoist and guitarist said he was stepping back from the group, leading one critic of cancel culture to write: ‘Never appease the hate mob, you should have stood by your words’.

But he has now said he has quit for good, writing on Medium ‘as long as I am a member of the band, speaking my mind on the evils of political extremism could bring them trouble’.

Mr Marshall said he plans to undertake new creative projects, ‘as well as speaking and writing on a variety of issues.’

Writing on Medium, Mr Marshall said he 'failed to foresee' that his praise of the book Unmasked: Inside Antifa's Radical Plan To Destroy Democracy 'could be interpreted as approval of the equally abhorrent Far-Right'

Writing on Medium, Mr Marshall said he ‘failed to foresee’ that his praise of the book Unmasked: Inside Antifa’s Radical Plan To Destroy Democracy ‘could be interpreted as approval of the equally abhorrent Far-Right’

He wrote: ‘I’ve had plenty of abuse over the years. I’m a banjo player after all. But this was another level. And, owing to our association, my friends, my bandmates, were getting it too. It took me more than a moment to understand how distressing this was for them.

‘Despite being four individuals we were, in the eyes of the public, a unity. Furthermore it’s our singer’s name on the tin. That name was being dragged through some pretty ugly accusations, as a result of my tweet. 

Andy Ngo: Right-wing ‘provocateur’ whose book described Antifa as a ‘violent extremist movement’ 

Andy Ngo, 35, is a conservative American journalist from Portland, Oregon, who has sparked controversy for his reporting on street clashes between left and right-wing protesters in the US

Andy Ngo, 35, is a conservative American journalist from Portland, Oregon, who has sparked controversy for his reporting on street clashes between left and right-wing protesters in the US

Andy Ngo, 35, is a conservative American journalist from Portland, Oregon, who has sparked controversy for his reporting on street clashes between left and right-wing protesters in the US. 

Ngo is editor-at-large of news site The Post Millennial and regularly appears on Fox News. He has also written columns for several publications including The Spectator and the Wall Street Journal. Ngo came to national attention in 2019, when he was attacked by far-left antifa protesters at a march by the right-wing extremist group the Proud Boys in Portland, Oregon. 

His book, Unmasked: Inside Antifa’s radical plan to destroy democracy, claims to expose Antifa – the name for protesters in the US who arrive at far-right marches to oppose them – as a ‘violent extremist movement’. It claimed his attack was just one example of ‘a long list of crimes perpetrated by antifa’ and ‘tells the story of this violent extremist movement from the very beginning’. 

He includes interviews with former Antifa members and people who have been attacked by the group to suggest it wants to ‘destroy the nation-state, America in particular’. Ngo calls the book ‘a letter of gratitude to the nation that welcomed’ his parents when they emigrated from war-torn Vietnam, and claims Antifa consists of ‘violent leftists’ who want to undermine American democracy.   

One of the ways it does this – Ngo – claims, is to attack ‘responsible’ journalists like him who are reporting on them activities in an attempt to scare them into submission.  

The book has been criticised by some media outlets as inaccurate. In the same year it was published, a video surfaced online of Ngo laughing and smiling alongside members of Patriot Prayer, another far-right group, who later attacked antifa members gathered at a nearby bar. At the time, Portland Mercury journalist Alex Zielinski reported that ‘there’s no way [Ngo] couldn’t know the group was planning on instigating violence’ – but Ngo denied this claim.   

‘The distress brought to them and their families that weekend I regret very much. I remain sincerely sorry for that. Unintentionally, I had pulled them into a divisive and totemic issue.

‘Emotions were high. Despite pressure to nix me they invited me to continue with the band. That took courage, particularly in the age of so called ‘cancel culture’. I made an apology and agreed to take a temporary step back.

‘Rather predictably another viral mob came after me, this time for the sin of apologising. Then followed libellous articles calling me ‘right-wing’ and such. Though there’s nothing wrong with being conservative, when forced to politically label myself I flutter between ‘centrist’, ‘liberal’ or the more honest ‘bit this, bit that’. 

‘Being labeled erroneously just goes to show how binary political discourse has become. I had criticised the ‘Left’, so I must be the ‘Right’, or so their logic goes.’

He went on: ‘I have spent much time reflecting, reading and listening. The truth is that my commenting on a book that documents the extreme Far-Left and their activities is in no way an endorsement of the equally repugnant Far-Right. 

‘The truth is that reporting on extremism at the great risk of endangering oneself is unquestionably brave. I also feel that my previous apology in a small way participates in the lie that such extremism does not exist, or worse, is a force for good.

‘For me to speak about what I’ve learnt to be such a controversial issue will inevitably bring my bandmates more trouble. My love, loyalty and accountability to them cannot permit that. I could remain and continue to self-censor but it will erode my sense of integrity. 

‘Gnaw my conscience. I’ve already felt that beginning. The only way forward for me is to leave the band. 

‘I hope in distancing myself from them I am able to speak my mind without them suffering the consequences. I leave with love in my heart and I wish those three boys nothing but the best. I have no doubt that their stars will shine long into the future.’

Mr Ngo’s book Unmasked claims to expose Antifa – the name for protesters in the US who arrive at far-Right marches to oppose them – as a ‘violent extremist movement’.

Critics say it inflates the size and threat of the Left-wing Antifa movement, which was a frequent target of President Donald Trump. It was even described by the Los Angeles Times as ‘supremely dishonest’.

In his offending tweet, Mr Marshall wrote to Mr Ngo: ‘Finally had the time to read your important book. You’re a brave man’.

The book recounts how Mr Ngo was attacked and ‘milkshaked’ by militant anti-Fascist protesters in 2019 – along with the history and tactics of the Antifa movement. 

Footage at the time showed Mr Ngo being punched, kicked and covered in milkshake. The writer tweeted afterwards that he was bleeding and had been robbed of his camera equipment and was heading to the hospital for treatment. At least three demonstrators from Antifa were arrested. 

Battered

Bruised

Ngo, who describes himself in his Twitter bio as ‘hated by Antifa’, is seen attempting to get away from the crowd

The march in Oregon where Ngo was attacked. He was covering protesters from the far-right Proud Boys group

The march in Oregon where Ngo was attacked. He was covering protesters from the far-right Proud Boys group 

Fans took to Twitter to slam Marshall's tweet about Ngo's book - which was later deleted

Fans took to Twitter to slam Marshall’s tweet about Ngo’s book – which was later deleted 

But there was also anger at Marshall leaving the ban, with one commentator saying, 'Never try to appease the hate mob'

But there was also anger at Marshall leaving the ban, with one commentator saying, ‘Never try to appease the hate mob’ 

Winston Marshall’s father Sir Paul: The Brexit-supporting hedge fund tycoon

Winston Marshall’s father is Sir Paul Marshall, the Brexit-supporting millionaire hedge fund tycoon who runs Knightsbridge-based firm Marshall Wace and is reportedly worth £630million. Sir Paul had a longstanding affiliation with the Lib Dems, working as research assistant to former party leader Charles Kennedy MP before standing for Parliament for the SDP/Liberal Alliance in Fulham in 1987. 

He co-edited The Orange Book in 2004, a Left-leaning pamphlet containing chapters written by various politicians including Nick Clegg, Chris Huhne, Vince Cable MP, Ed Davey MP and Susan Kramer. The hedge fund millionaire reportedly donated £200,000 to the Lib Dems from 2002 until he left the party in 2015 over its policies on the EU and its support of British membership of the bloc.

In July 2016, he donated £3,250 to Michael Gove’s Tory leadership campaign, according to Vice. Though Mr Gove’s bid was unsuccessful, it foiled Boris Johnson’s own campaign and paved the way for Theresa May. Sir Paul was a public support of Brexit during the 2016 referendum and donated £100,000 to the Leave campaign, according to the Financial Times.

Writing for the Brexit Central website in April 2017, Sir Paul called withdrawal from the EU ‘a huge opportunity’ and said the country ‘should be a champion of free trade, open and outward looking to the world and built on strong institutions’. Sir Paul and his business partner Ian Wace reportedly made millions of pounds by placing huge bets on falling share prices in March last year as stock markets collapsed early in the pandemic. 

He said: ‘Attacked by antifa. Bleeding. They stole my camera equipment.

‘No police until after. waiting for ambulance . If you have evidence of attack please help.’

Adding: ‘On way to hospital. Was beat on face and head multiple times in downtown in middle of street with fists and weapons. Suspects at large.’

Mr Ngo has in the past associated himself with US group Proud Boys, who are self-described ‘western chauvinists’ and identified as a ‘hate group’ by anti-extremist organisation the Southern Poverty Law Centre. 

Mumford fans quickly criticised Mr Marshall for his tweet – with one writing: ‘Certainly left a nasty taste in my mouth. I’ll be listening to anybody but M&S from now on.

But another wrote: ‘This is so damn disappointing and really reinforces all the bad stereotypes about what it means when you hear ‘the sound of banjos.’ Supporting fascism ain’t a good look.’

Mr Marshall was born in Wandsworth, south-west London, and attended £25,000-per-year St Paul’s school – was a founding member of Mumford & Sons. 

In 2015, he married Glee star Dianna Agron, before the couple divorced in August 2020. 

The notoriously private couple tied the knot at the Beldi Country Club in Morocco in 2016, following a whirlwind romance and lived in New York.

The couple were first rumoured to be dating back in 2015 when Miss Agron was pictured holding hands with Marshall when she joined his band on tour in Paris.

Before marrying Mr Marshall, Miss Agron had dated fellow actors Alex Pettyfer, Sebastian Stan and Thomas Cocquerel.

Mr Marshall is rumoured to have dated Katy Perry just before she got together with Orlando Bloom.

Why I’m Leaving Mumford & Sons: Winston Marshall’s 1,263-word essay on Medium.com – in full 

I loved those first tours. Bouncing off a sweaty stage in an Edinburgh catacomb we then had to get to a gig in Camden by lunch the next day. We couldn’t fit all four of us and Ted’s double-bass into the VW Polo. I think it was Ben who drew the short-straw and had to follow by train with his keyboard. I remember blitzing it down the M6 through the night, the lads asleep beside me. We made it but my voice sadly didn’t, completely shot by exhaustion, I had to mime my harmonies. Being in Mumford & Sons was exhilarating.

Every gig was its own adventure. Every gig its own story. Be it odysseys through the Scottish Islands, or soapbox shows in Soho. Where would we sleep that night? Hostels in Fort William, pub floors in Ipswich, even the Travelodge in Carlisle maintains a sort of charm in my mind. We saw the country and then, as things miraculously grew, the world. All the while doing what we loved. Music. And not just any music. These songs meant something. They felt important to me. Songs with the message of hope and love. I was surrounded by three supremely talented song-writers and Marcus, our singer with a one-in-a-million voice. A voice that can compel both a field of 80,000 and the intimacy of a front room. Fast-forward ten years and we were playing those same songs every night in arenas, flying first-class, staying in luxury hotels and being paid handsomely to do so. I was a lucky boy.

On stage, to my left Ted, a roaring bear, with his double-bass flying high above him. To my right Ben, with his unparalleled passion for music, pounding at the keys. And Marcus leading us with all the might of a hurricane or all the tenderness of a breeze, depending on what the song demanded. What a blessing it was to be so close to such talent as theirs. It will be with immense pride that I look back at my time with Mumford & Sons. A legacy of songs that I believe will stand the test of ages. What we’ve achieved together has vastly exceeded the wildest fantasies of this s**tkicker from Mortlake.

Who in their right mind would willingly walk away from this?

It turns out I would. And as you might imagine it’s been no easy decision.

At the beginning of March I tweeted to American journalist Andy Ngo, author of the New York Times Bestseller, Unmasked. ‘Congratulations @MrAndyNgo. Finally had the time to read your important book. You’re a brave man’. Posting about books had been a theme of my social-media throughout the pandemic. I believed this tweet to be as innocuous as the others. How wrong I turned out to be.

Over the course of 24 hours it was trending with tens of thousands of angry retweets and comments. I failed to foresee that my commenting on a book critical of the Far-Left could be interpreted as approval of the equally abhorrent Far-Right.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Thirteen members of my family were murdered in the concentration camps of the Holocaust. My Grandma, unlike her cousins, aunts and uncles, survived. She and I were close. My family knows the evils of fascism painfully well. To say the least. To call me ‘fascist’ was ludicrous beyond belief.

I’ve had plenty of abuse over the years. I’m a banjo player after all. But this was another level. And, owing to our association, my friends, my bandmates, were getting it too. It took me more than a moment to understand how distressing this was for them.

Despite being four individuals we were, in the eyes of the public, a unity. Furthermore it’s our singer’s name on the tin. That name was being dragged through some pretty ugly accusations, as a result of my tweet. The distress brought to them and their families that weekend I regret very much. I remain sincerely sorry for that. Unintentionally, I had pulled them into a divisive and totemic issue.

Emotions were high. Despite pressure to nix me they invited me to continue with the band. That took courage, particularly in the age of so called ‘cancel culture’. I made an apology and agreed to take a temporary step back.

Rather predictably another viral mob came after me, this time for the sin of apologising. Then followed libellous articles calling me ‘right-wing’ and such. Though there’s nothing wrong with being conservative, when forced to politically label myself I flutter between ‘centrist’, ‘liberal’ or the more honest ‘bit this, bit that’. Being labeled erroneously just goes to show how binary political discourse has become. I had criticised the ‘Left’, so I must be the ‘Right’, or so their logic goes.

Why did I apologise?

‘Rub your eyes and purify your heart — and prize above all else in the world those who love you and who wish you well.’ — Aleksander Solzhenitsyn once wrote. In the mania of the moment I was desperate to protect my bandmates. The hornets’ nest that I had unwittingly hit had unleashed a black-hearted swarm on them and their families. I didn’t want them to suffer for my actions, they were my priority.

Secondly, I was sincerely open to the fact that maybe I did not know something about the author or his work. ‘Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak,’ Churchill once said, ‘courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen’. And so I listened.

I have spent much time reflecting, reading and listening. The truth is that my commenting on a book that documents the extreme Far-Left and their activities is in no way an endorsement of the equally repugnant Far-Right. The truth is that reporting on extremism at the great risk of endangering oneself is unquestionably brave. I also feel that my previous apology in a small way participates in the lie that such extremism does not exist, or worse, is a force for good.

So why leave the band?

On the eve of his leaving to the West, Solzhenitsyn published an essay titled ‘Live Not By Lies’. I have read it many times now since the incident at the start of March. It still profoundly stirs me.

‘And he who is not sufficiently courageous to defend his soul — don’t let him be proud of his ‘progressive’ views, and don’t let him boast that he is an academician or a people’s artist, a distinguished figure or a general. Let him say to himself: I am a part of the herd and a coward. It’s all the same to me as long as I’m fed and kept warm.’

For me to speak about what I’ve learnt to be such a controversial issue will inevitably bring my bandmates more trouble. My love, loyalty and accountability to them cannot permit that. I could remain and continue to self-censor but it will erode my sense of integrity. Gnaw my conscience. I’ve already felt that beginning.

The only way forward for me is to leave the band. I hope in distancing myself from them I am able to speak my mind without them suffering the consequences. I leave with love in my heart and I wish those three boys nothing but the best. I have no doubt that their stars will shine long into the future. I will continue my work with Hong Kong Link Up and I look forward to new creative projects as well as speaking and writing on a variety of issues, challenging as they may be.

Winston Marshall

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk