In recent weeks Gina Miller, an investment fund director, self-proclaimed conscious capitalist and philanthropist, has been widely depicted in the media as the Guyana-born “rich-bitch”, who thwarted Theresa May’s Brexit plans.
A trained lawyer, she attributes the current zeitgeist of discontentment expressed in global politics, which has seen Donald Trump elected as POTUS, on a broken political and capitalist system.
People around the world are angry because they have been forgotten and neglected, Miller acknowledges. There is a growing divide, which she says is a result of the way politicians and successful business people have behaved over the years.
Talking to First Women, she opined that the referendum was not at all about the people, but, rather, was a political game played by the Conservative party to heal its wounds and to increase its majority.
She said: “I was involved in the campaign from the beginning and suspected that the government had no plan. I was angry and upset upon hearing the results in June because [the government] had played it, and made promises with fingers crossed behind their backs, never envisaging that they would lose, and hoping they would not have to follow through. The whole thing was complete a scam.”
Spurred by her own anxiety about Britain’s post-Brexit future and a sense that the public had been duped, the 51-year-old hired City law firm Mishcon de Reya, and pursued legal action to clarify whether the government could trigger article 50 without parliamentary approval.
Miller says she anticipated the anger that followed news of her legal victory because everything Brexit-related is emotionally charged.
“I’ve always had thick skin because I refuse to be bullied by anybody. However, I did not expect at all the level of sexual and racial violence and hatred that I’ve experienced,” she says. “It has been quite extraordinary.
“If this is the country we now live in, then we all have a lot to worry about. There are dark clouds gathering on any diverse gender equality discourse, and it all seems to be going down the pan.”
Miller believes the High Court episode, but for the fact of her gender, would have played out very differently. What upset her was not the bucket-loads of vitriol hurled her way, but incessant submissions that she did not exist in her own right, and was only successful because of her husband, a hedge-fund magnate with whom she runs SCM Direct.
She recalls receiving hate mail targeting her race. Comments expressed that black women only “belong in the kitchen”, “scrubbing floors”, “being prostitutes”, and “should have no rights”.
“Worst of the worst was that as a black woman I’m not even human, I’m a primate and therefore I should be hunted,” she says. “Is this the society we live in? We seem to be undoing 20 to 30 years of the advancements we’ve made.
“Yet every word printed by certain media has been violated with untruth in that it is not who I am. I am British born, not an immigrant. All these sorts of things are just poisoning people.”
Refuting claims that the case was a ploy to delay the inevitable, Miller submits that the challenge does have implications for Brexit but insists it is about process, and not the Brexit vote.
She explains: “The central thing people voted for was sovereignty, and then government wanted to bypass that and throw it way. The very thing people were promised was that we will get back sovereignty. We seemed to be reverting to centuries-old politics, where government could bypass parliament.
“Let’s confront the intellectual and legal arguments for this case,” Miller says. “It is about government using old, antiquated law, where an unelected prime minister, and prime ministers in the future, can decide what people’s rights will be. It is not a country I want to live in and nobody else should want to live in.
“Nobody knew what article 50 really meant and what our constitutional situation was. I’ve gone to court and handed it to the public on a plate. Why on earth are they not getting on with it? Why waste time to appeal? Why is no one asking that question, instead of attacking me? Why are they not worried about why [the governemnt] is not doing as they promised they would?
“To all of the detractors out there, I ask why are they not attacking Theresa May? I just created, with own money, and those of a handful, the legal certainty for them to move ahead [with Brexit] very quickly.”
No stranger to holding people to account, Miller has spent ten years since the financial crisis campaigning for accountability and transparency in financial services. She set up the True and Fair Campaign in 2012, which lobbies for more scrutiny in the investment sector.
Her notion of conscious capitalism is about people, profit and planet, she explains, where successful individuals and businesses give back to society and people who engendered their success.
“If they had done that responsibly, perhaps we would be in the place we are now,” she says.
“A lot of people at the top have a lot to be guilty of and people, rightly, are angry at what they see is happening and I completely understand that. I’m used to getting backlash, just not used to it being so personal and so much about my sex and race.”
The flip side of it all is the hundreds of messages and letters Miller has received from people who said they had felt disillusioned and upset in their own country, but that the case had given them hope.
“I didn’t anticipate this, she says. “Because of all the negative backlash and the positive feedback, I cannot think of anything better to be doing with my time, money and effort, than to be fighting this case. More than anything it has strengthened my resolve.”