Businesswoman, campaigner, friend. Sarah Tucker interviews her long-time pal and the woman who took the Government to court over Brexit
Gina Miller is my friend. There, I’ve said it. I’ve known her for more than 15 years, since a mutual acquaintance introduced us. We bonded because we had both recently left troubled marriages and wanted to move on, to do something positive with our lives and our families. Right from the outset, I sensed that I had encountered a woman of substance: when Gina says she is going to do something, no matter how challenging, she does it.
So naturally, from the day she helped to cause a political rumpus by taking the Government to the High Court over Brexit, I have read the articles written about her with interest. Fair to say, however, that I don’t recognise the woman they describe.
When we meet for coffee, she always underplays her contacts and achievements. She never name-drops; or, if she does, it’s only because it’s key to the conversation. But she will always, whenever opportunity arises, assist, introduce and support. Highly protective of her family and loyal to her friends, she is one of the good guys who just happens to have risen to the top of her game.
None of which becomes apparent upon flicking through a selection of media reports. Who, I wonder, is this publicity-hungry she-wolf that stalks the pages of so many publications? What is it that supposedly makes my warm and welcoming friend, a mother and businesswoman, complicit with the ‘enemies of the people’?
“Some elements of the media have behaved despicably,” reflects Gina. “Ransacking every part of my life when, as a citizen, I have every right to ask the courts a perfectly legitimate question about our democracy.”
The perfectly legitimate question, of course, was whether or not the Government could invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty – thereby triggering Brexit – without seeking the approval of Parliament. Alongside Deir Tozetti Dos Santos – a Spanish London-based hairdresser who actually voted for Brexit – and the ‘People’s Challenge’ expat group led by Grahame Pigney, Gina launched a legal case to find out. Throughout she argued that it was not designed to overturn the referendum vote, but to uphold the constitutional rights of Parliament. It was about “process, not politics”, she said.
To me, she has no qualms about saying what she believes about the vote itself: Brexit is a mistake. However, she would have liked to see reform of the EU, not just maintenance of the status quo. For Gina, it was never a binary issue.
My own view is different. A travel journalist with a home in France, I should have been a natural for Remain. In fact, however, I believe that change is more likely outside the EU than within. Either way though, the fact that Gina would latch onto ambiguities in the process should come as no surprise. Transparency, in every field, is something of a grand obsession for a woman with a campaigning soul.
Born in Guyana, but educated in the UK, Gina worked in marketing and event management before moving into financial services, co-founding investment firm SCM Private (now SCM Direct) with her third husband Alan Miller in 2009. Since then, she has fought hard for transparency in charities, investment and pension funds. The Millers launched the True and Fair Foundation to make charitable giving more efficient, followed in 2012 by the True and Fair Campaign for transparency in financial selling.
“I am still pushing hard in those directions and have recently contributed to a huge study on the asset management industry by the regulator,” explains Gina. “In fact, several organizations have since asked if I would become involved in transparency work for them. As if I have the time!
“If I’d known how much of my time and energy would be taken by the Brexit case, I would have employed more cover for my day job. It’s been exhausting keeping all the plates spinning.”
For Gina, transparency is more than just its own reward. Through fairness and compassion; by working openly in concert rather than through secrecy and division, one actually achieves far more. Yet this manifesto is far from universally approved, and her taking the Government to task has angered much of the electorate. Having stood up for what she believed was in the public interest, Gina Miller is now being rewarded with threats of rape and death.
“There are still the daily abusers and trollers, who now blame me for what others say; for corrupting the courts, the police, the House of Lords, in fact anyone who tries to raise a debate on Brexit. I never knew I was so powerful! I still have to be ultracautious and our family life is pretty restricted.
“On the positive side, I receive wonderful messages from young women who feel inspired by me and my actions. I have also, I think, managed to bring hope to many. All of which gives me a heightened sense of responsibility.”
A sense that will never be silenced by fear. Just as she was unafraid of taking the Government to court, so she refuses to be cowed by wealth and fame. Once, at a gala dinner and auction, she stood up and asked the multimillionaires why their bidding was so low.
Meanwhile, because of her actions, the process of Brexit has finally been held up to the light in the Chamber of the House of Lords.
“The Lords have acted with great dignity in their role of scrutiny and oversight,” she says with evident satisfaction. “They have also shown that debate can be conducted with civility and respect.”
That, surely, is what we all deserve. Including the real Gina Miller.
- This interview appeared in the April Richmond & Barnes Magazine, you can read the entire April issue by clicking here.
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