Brexit challenger Gina Miller calls out the Twitter trolls
PUBLISHED: 10:20 16 November 2016 | UPDATED: 11:28 16 November 2016
© 2016 Bloomberg Finance LP
Darling of Remainers and a hate figure for Brexiters, Gina Miller is calling out the trolls, and calling in the police following High Court ruling on Article 50
These have been, by any standard, interesting times. No sooner had Gina Miller secured her legal victory against the Government at the High Court last week than Donald Trump secures the keys to the White House.
When I speak with her, the morning the American bombshell landed, I ask how she is feeling: “I can’t answer. I actually don’t know how I am. I was expecting some form of backlash but nothing like the level of racism and sexism that I have experienced. There are now threats to my children and husband and work colleagues. It is at a level that is so ugly that it makes me fear we have undone all the advances made since the 50s and 60s. No one has a self-adjusting button any more. Everyone thinks it will be an overnight thing but believe me it is not an overnight thing.”
Miller speaks so rapidly and eloquently that it takes a few sentences for me to realize: One - she is talking about original Brexit . Two – there is always someone worse off than oneself.
For performing the public service of seeking some clarity from the courts among the fudge and bluster of May’s no-plan-Exit she has been subjected to an utterly unacceptable torrent of vitriol and choleric bile. Swastikas have been photoshopped onto her forehead. Death, and rape threats issued.
She has called in the police who, she says, are taking it “very, very seriously”.
“They have instituted a number of measures including taking me off the national data bases and removing my car number plate and informing me of things that I was naïve about like apparently if someone has your mobile number they can ring you and put something on your phone that allows them to track you. I had a small chat with Alastair Campbell who was amazed at my naivety and told me this stuff had been going on for years.”
The naivety is perhaps excusable, for far from being an expert in the dark arts Miller is simply a very successful businesswoman. Although in much of the reaction to the high court case – in which she was the lead claimant – this is often overlooked, in coverage that has focused, as much, on her personal life.
“It was a huge shock, as I thought the coverage would stay around the case rather than follow such a personal agenda,” she says. “I am not even a businesswoman any more but a ‘foreign-born model’. Boris Johnson is rarely referred to as being foreign-born, but I am all the time. When people go on the attack like this they are fuelling the growing division and anarchy that leads to growing racial and sexual denigration. And a handful of politicians and handful of the media have to take responsibility.”
Miller was born in Guyana, the daughter of a criminal barrister who would become the country’s Attorney General. “Justice and the rule of law has been spoon-fed to me since I was a baby because of my father.”
She moved to England and was threatened with being sent to Roedean, a girls boarding school on a cliff on the South Coast, but said “if you send me there I am going to run away”.
Instead she went to Moira House Girls’ School, in Eastbourne - “a gorgeous eclectic school which produces mavericks”. She studied law and had ambitions to become a lawyer, but then took a year out and discovered there were more fun things to do.
She is married to former hedge fund manager Alan Miller and together they co-founded a financial management company SCM Private. “Companies have to be conscious of the triple bottom line – people/profit/planet – and strive for a new capitalism,” she says.
“We have to look in the mirror and ask serious questions about our own culpability.”
She also runs one charity campaigning for change in the City and another assisting charities in becoming more efficient.
In all the furore, it has been forgotten that the daughter of a prominent lawyer was seeking to making a legal point not a political one.
“Imagine if Mrs May had triggered Article 50 before the courts had determined the legality of so doing and then it rumbled through the courts undermining her during her negotiations.”
This subtlety has been rather overlooked in the avalanche of online abuse. An oversight that demonstrates the huge gulf between a painstaking judgment of many tens of thousands of words handed down by a trio of experienced and mightily intelligent judges and a 140 character tweet typed hastily by someone reliant on barely-comprehended received wisdom.
It is Miller’s bad luck that in pursuing the former she has been subjected to the latter. Her respect for the rule of law making her the victim of the tyranny of the tweet.
Some people did come to her aid but it took a while. “It was helpful, if rather late, that David Davis and Chuka Umunna stood up in the House on Monday and condemned the attacks and said that they were criminal offences. May could have defended me and the judges on Thursday night or Friday. But everything surrounding Brexit is so emotionally charged that everyone has become so fearful. Apart from a couple of them not a single politician has contacted me.
“What makes Britain so great is the rule of law and independence of the judiciary. I talked to some children yesterday and explained that without a rule of law it would be as if all the kids were running the school and had no respect for the teachers or head-master and they said, ‘that would be chaos’.
“I am worried about the legacy we are leaving our children and grandchildren, we may even be heading to war. And we now have an estate agent, and an emotionally unstable one, running America. Everything will be transactional.”
She remains undaunted. “We have to start somewhere. A stream starts with a few drops. We need to create a stream of consciousness. More people need to stand up, which has not quite happened yet. I am hoping more people stand up.”
With luck, some will have been moved to do so by the eloquence with which Miller put her arguments to Nigel Farage on the Marr show last Sunday – forcing him to say, ‘I take the advisory point’ and at one point topping a typically Faragian ramble with a ‘well, we move on’.
Miller moves on to the Supreme Court next month where she is confident of victory. “I don’t think the government should be going to the Supreme Court. We did win 3-0, after all, and there are very few new points for them to make.
“But they are so adamant and this must say more about their position rather than the case, and suggests to me they have no plan.” She is delighted that Scotland has announced they will be joining the action, Wales are about to, and Northern Ireland and Gibraltar are likely to follow suit. “There could be four countries represented in front of all eleven judges for four days,” says Miller.
What a way to take the fight back to the Brexiteers.
Will Buckley is a journalist and barrister