COURAGE CALLS TO COURAGE EV­ERY­WHERE

Gina Miller is the woman who took the govern­ment to court over Brexit and won. Her in­spi­ra­tional mem­oir re­veals the other ways in which she has de­fied the odds

Harper's Bazaar (UK) - - Contents - By EL­IZ­A­BETH DAY Por­trait by PHILIP SIN­DEN

Gina Miller’s mem­oir re­veals her fights for jus­tice both pro­fes­sional and per­sonal

Gina Miller is drink­ing a glass of sauvi­gnon blanc in a pri­vate mem­bers’ club in cen­tral Lon­don. It has been a tough day – there have been two cabi­net res­ig­na­tions over Brexit, in­clud­ing the for­eign sec­re­tary Boris John­son, and Miller has just been asked to go on Ques­tion Time, the BBC’s flag­ship panel dis­cus­sion pro­gramme, and needs to pre­pare. She’s sit­ting on a sofa with her lap­top propped up on her knees when I ar­rive, her back held per­fectly straight with a bal­le­rina’s poise.

‘There’s an old say­ing that you get the politi­cians you de­serve,’ she says as she closes the lap­top. ‘Well,’ she arches an eye­brow, ‘what did we do ?’

The 53-year-old Miller doesn’t con­sider her­self a hero. In fact, she dis­misses any men­tion of the word with an el­e­gant flap of the hand. But for many of us, that’s just what she is. In 2016, she took the govern­ment to court over its in­ten­tion to trig­ger Ar­ti­cle 50 to leave the Euro­pean Union with­out par­lia­men­tary con­sent – and she won. The is­sue at stake, Miller says, was not whether

Brexit was right or wrong, but whether the checks and bal­ances of par­lia­men­tary democ­racy were be­ing cor­rectly ap­plied.

Since then, she has be­come our un­of­fi­cial op­po­si­tion – speak­ing out and hold­ing power to ac­count at ev­ery turn. As a con­se­quence, she has been the tar­get of vit­ri­olic racist and sex­ist abuse, to the ex­tent that she now rarely leaves home with­out ad­di­tional se­cu­rity for fear of acid at­tacks.

‘The way I deal with it is to re­mind my­self that the peo­ple abus­ing me are act­ing from a place of fear and ig­no­rance,’ Miller says. ‘If I be­lieve in what I’m do­ing and the peo­ple I love be­lieve in it, that’s what mat­ters.’

It is a rare per­son who could keep go­ing un­der this sort of pres­sure, and yet Miller

in­sists her ac­tions are noth­ing ex­cep­tional. ‘I’m just do­ing what I think is right,’ she ex­plains. ‘The prob­lem with our politi­cians is that they all tend to come from the same back­grounds – the play­ing fields of pub­lic schools, then univer­sity and then they be­come pro­fes­sional politi­cians. Pol­i­tics has been pol­luted by peo­ple only in­ter­ested in power, rather than want­ing to help those who are suf­fer­ing.’

Against this back­drop, Miller stands out; she knows only too well what it’s like to strug­gle. She was born in Bri­tish Guiana, the daugh­ter of a lawyer who would rise to be­come dis­trict at­tor­ney, and was sent to board­ing-school in Eng­land at the age of 11. As po­lit­i­cal un­rest deep­ened at home, her par­ents found it in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult to send money out of the coun­try and the young Miller found a job as a ho­tel cham­ber­maid to make ends meet, ris­ing early ev­ery morn­ing to change dirty sheets and clean bath­rooms be­fore mak­ing it to school for a day of lessons.

This early ex­pe­ri­ence of get­ting on with things proved for­ma­tive. It’s an at­ti­tude she still ap­plies – both to her po­lit­i­cal ac­tivism, and to her home life: she is the mother of three chil­dren, the el­dest of whom, Lucy-Ann, has spe­cial needs with symp­toms of autism, dys­lexia and dys­praxia.

When Lucy-Ann was young, Miller was ad­vised by the med­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment and her own fam­ily to put her into an in­sti­tu­tion. The ex­perts said she would never be able to walk or talk like a ‘nor­mal’ child. But Miller re­fused to ac­cept this opin­ion and raised her daugh­ter to ex­ceed their ex­pec­ta­tions. To­day, 30-year-old Lucy-Ann has a read­ing age of six and can both walk and talk. ‘I be­came a li­on­ess, fight­ing for my cub,’ Miller says now. ‘What I’ve done is taken that in­stinct I had with Lucy-Ann, and I’m fight­ing for oth­ers who can’t fight for them­selves.’

I helped Miller write her mem­oir, Rise, and was con­stantly as­ton­ished by the way she picked her­self up af­ter a se­ries of life crises. Her hero is Maya

An­gelou and she gets daily in­spi­ra­tion from the suf­fragettes. ‘They were ex­traor­di­nar­ily brave women. I don’t think we can even be­gin to imag­ine or to thank them for what they did.’

Through the course of writ­ing her mem­oir, Miller spoke to me a lot about the need to build up emo­tional re­silience and to dis­cover how to cope with fail­ure so that one could learn, rather than be de­feated by it. Into this cat­e­gory, she puts the fact that she sur­vived an abu­sive sec­ond mar­riage, be­fore go­ing on to find last­ing hap­pi­ness with her cur­rent hus­band, Alan, with whom she runs an eth­i­cal in­vest­ment com­pany, SCM Direct, and has two chil­dren, Luca, 12, and Lana, 10.

‘It’s their fu­ture I’m wor­ried about,’ Miller says. ‘That’s why I do what I do, be­cause I want them to be able to grow up in a coun­try where you are not judged by the colour of your skin, a coun­try of fair play and tol­er­ant val­ues. That’s the Bri­tain I re­mem­ber.’

Are there any politi­cians she has met who have made a par­tic­u­larly bad im­pres­sion on her? ‘There are some re­ally strong back­benchers,’ she says diplo­mat­i­cally. ‘But the front bench are just in­ter­ested in power.’ Al­though Miller in­sists she is not con­sid­er­ing a po­lit­i­cal ca­reer her­self, she says she has var­i­ous things up her sleeve over the com­ing months to en­sure the voices of or­di­nary peo­ple are still be­ing heard by our MPs. But the only par­ties she’s been in­volved with lately are not po­lit­i­cal ones – she re­cently threw a party for LucyAnn’s 30th birth­day in her back gar­den, where guests danced into the early hours. ‘It was a cel­e­bra­tion of the per­son she’d be­come,’ Miller says, ‘be­cause she’d proved ev­ery­body wrong.’

Like mother, like daugh­ter.

‘Rise’ by Gina Miller, writ­ten with El­iz­a­beth Day (£16.99, Canon­gate), is out now.

‘Pol­i­tics has been pol­luted by peo­ple only in­ter­ested in power, rather than want­ing to help those who

are suf­fer­ing’

Gina Miller. Be­low: El­iz­a­beth Day

Gina Millerad­dress­ing the crowd at thePeo­ple’s Vote demon­stra­tionin June

Above: Miller rep­re­sent­ing the Ar­ti­cle 50 case at the Royal Courts of Jus­tice. Left: at the Supreme Court

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