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'Defending democracy is the best way to spend my money'

Businesswoman Gina Miller won a legal case which has thrown the Government's Brexit plans into disarray. But she's still a hero to her 11-year-old son, she tells Susannah Butler

Published 05/11/2016

Victory role: Gina Miller outside the High Court in London
Victory role: Gina Miller outside the High Court in London
Victory role: Gina Miller outside the High Court in London
Gina Miller with husband Alan

Gina Miller's 11-year-old son thinks she is a superhero. "He said, 'Thank you, mummy, it'll be me and my friends that suffer if we don't have democracy'. My kids are obsessed with Marvel and think I'm Wonder Woman."

Miller talks to her children about work and the landmark legal case she won on Thursday. Using her own money, the 51-year-old who runs the investment firm SCM Private with her husband Alan brought a legal challenge to ensure that Theresa May cannot trigger Article 50 without a vote in Parliament.

"We won three-nil," she laughs. "All three judges ruled in our favour. What we did was preserve democracy. But the media frenzy meant it didn't sink in." She had a glass of champagne at home in Chelsea to celebrate but now she's busy. We speak on the phone as she rushes around, dropping off her children and going to work. The decision has disrupted May's plans to begin Brexit negotiations in March next year and made the prospect of a 'Soft Brexit' more likely.

"I'm a very level-headed person, so I was just thinking 'What happens now?'. It's not just about the day of the victory. Now the Government should be drawing up a Bill (on Brexit). To not frustrate the Brexit timetable they should put the Bill before parliament as quickly as possible.

"If we hadn't won, the implication would have been that any prime minister in the future could do what they want. The judges said we have a rule of law in this country that cannot be taken away by politicians."

Miller decided to fight last month. She only slept for 36 minutes on the night of the EU referendum. In the morning, her son told her she'd do something about the result because she always acts.

It's been tough. She's had rape and death threats and is in close dialogue with the police about protecting her house and her children's school.

"I'm not naive, I knew people can be hateful and spoke to police about security early on. There's been a hateful backlash. It's been racist, sexist, xenophobic - anything you can possibly imagine - but I'm not backwards in coming forwards and speaking.

"I spent the past 10 years fighting rip-offs in the City and I'm vocal when I think things are wrong. I can't think of a better way of spending my money.

"I've gone from being a single parent in a one-bed flat in Stoke Newington to where I live now. Fortunately I have strength of personality and resources to speak out. It's the right thing for me to do so I do it."

Miller was born in Guyana, where her father was leader of the opposition. When politics became dangerous he stepped down and was attorney general. As a child, Miller would go see him in court. At 10, she was sent to Roedean school, but was badly bullied and experienced racism for the first time - a time she credits with making her steely.

She ran away to live with her brother in Eastbourne when she was 14, supporting herself by working as a chambermaid. She studied law at the University of East London, but didn't sit her finals because her parents wanted her back in Guyana. But London was home.

At 21 she married and had a daughter at 23, who is disabled. She divorced her first husband and worked as a model while also setting up a marketing agency. She remarried, to Jon Maguire, a businessman known for his Christianity and anti-homosexual attitude. They divorced in 2002. Then she met Alan Miller at a fancy dress party in 2003. He started one of Britain's first hedge funds and had made more than £30m. When they were first dating, he was in the middle of a divorce and she urged him to fight for a fair deal - again driven by principle. Now she is sanguine about the abuse she's had.

"I can't get upset about people getting angry with me, because they were played by politicians. I blame the politicians.

"The problem is that people were upset and they've been upset for years. Politicians have either blamed Europe, or been irresponsible. Everyone who voted, Remain or Leave, wanted change. They believed whatever way they voted they were doing the best for their families.

"But the politicians misled the public into believing whatever the outcome of the advisory referendum was would be made law, knowing well that would not be the case. That unleashes anger."

Would she go into politics? "Absolutely not. You have to play games. Maybe I would if it was about honesty and integrity, but the politics we have now needs massive changing. The airbags and lunatics seem to rise to the top and the hard-working majority of MPs don't."

It's "too early to tell" if May will change this here. "A lot of what she says is fantastic. I'm delighted it's a woman who is taking us forward, but she's in a difficult situation.

"The boys playing their politics games in the playground left and she's been left to pick up the pieces.

"I can't say there are a huge number of politicians who I feel hopeful about changing it - and that worries me.

"We don't have a functioning opposition. That sense of mistrust that the majority feel, I feel, too."

She felt upbeat about the case. "We'd kept it to the legal argument and our case was based on hundreds of years of constitutional law, focused around whether the Government could use the royal prerogative to bypass Parliament, so I was confident we would win."

But she was upset by how emotional it became. "Because the case had become very politicised it was a disgrace that parliament didn't address the central legal pillars of our argument. They wasted time and effort."

Will it slow the process down? "It won't. They could get on with it now."

Belfast Telegraph

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