Upcoming: Gina Miller at the 2019 Spring Literary Festival

It’s unlikely you’ve heard of Gina Miller because of her work in investment management or philanthropy. Most people probably know her as the lead claimant in the historic case against the Prime Minister to give Parliament a say on the triggering of Article 50. It didn’t matter MPs would likely accept the need to trigger Article 50 – this was a case about legal process, and the future legality of Brexit itself.

 Miller admits in her memoir Rise: Life Lessons in Speaking Out, Standing Tall & Leading the Way her position made her “in the eyes of some, a national hate figure”. She won in both the High Court and Supreme Court and this cemented her name in history, especially since the High Court verdict prompted The Daily Mail to call the judges who ruled on the case “Enemies of the people”. The Daily Express called it “the day democracy died”. And the following day 22 newspapers worldwide splashed Gina Miller’s face on their front pages.

Many Brexit supporters were furious. Of course the irony is Gina Miller should be their hero – here is a British woman who stood up for the sovereignty of Britain’s parliament. Unsurprisingly, many didn’t see it this way. Even before she published this memoir there was an online petition amassing more than 3,000 signatures to stop the book’s publication.

Miller was born in Guyana, formerly known as British Guiana, and went to boarding school in Eastbourne, England, before studying at the University of East London (UEL). She didn’t complete her law degree, but the UEL did award her an Honorary Doctorate of Law in 2017. In 2009 she co-founded the investment company SCM Private (later rebranded to SCM Direct), and started up Miller Philanthropy, which is now the True and Fair Foundation with her husband Alan Miller. Its purpose is to “clean up the UK investment and pension industry’s excesses” in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. In Rise she describes her mother as “an eco-warrior before the term was invented”. That trait has rubbed off on Miller – although she’s more of a financial and political warrior. As her LinkedIn page professes, she is “an ardent believer in conscious capitalism as well as a vocal transparency campaigner”.

The most shocking yet interesting aspects of her book are her frank descriptions of the abuse she receives, including numerous rape and death threats. She’s a woman who wasn’t born in Britain, and many see this as a point of contention regardless of the fact these social identities bear no relevance to her or anyone’s intellect or abilities. The book does mention Brexit – after all, that’s what brought her name into the limelight – but largely she bounces back and forth proposing how to survive and succeed in a world set against you.

Her book is almost self-help: inspirational writing peppered with enough anecdotes to maintain the readers’ interest. As I sat on a train home I felt bombarded with punchy quotes, like “One of the most precious things you can give a child is education”, and “real diversity is about psyche as well as outward diversity”. I find they’re great to slip into a summative here and there. Or you could convince your mates to tattoo themselves with the quotes in a fit of deep thought on hope, progression, or the future.

Joking aside, this is a brilliant read. Miller sways from argumentative to determined and even to heart-warming as she describes looking after her disabled daughter, whom she gave birth to when she was just 23. Whatever your beliefs, you need to read this book. Gina Miller fought for this country’s democracy and won. She’s already bagged herself a place in the history books, and I doubt anyone believes this is the last we’ll hear from her.

Gina Miller will be in conversation with Sarah Barrow at the Spring Literary Festival on Wednesday March 6 at 7pm.

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Chris Matthews

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January 2022
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