Anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller on being an LGBT ally and facing hate speech every day
Influential businesswoman and prominent anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller knows what it’s like to receive hateful abuse every single day.
A long-time campaigner for inclusivity and social justice, Miller gained a reputation as a divisive figure in 2016 when she launched a legal challenge that forced the government to hold a vote in Parliament on its decision to leave the European Union.
As a prominent figure who has criticised Brexit and rising intolerance in the UK, Miller has become an all-purpose ‘bogeywoman in some parts of the right-wing press.
Speaking at The Economist‘s Pride and Prejudice event on Thursday (May 24), Miller read out some of the vile barrage of message she continues to receive nearly two years after the Brexit vote.
One message said: “Hitler only killed 3 million people, Gina Miller has pissed off 17.4 million.”
Another stated: “Meghan Markle has been diluted to white, she’s beautiful and she’s f**kable. You are black, old, and should be whipped into obedience.”
Speaking to PinkNews, Miller opened up about what it’s like to face frequently-racist and sexist abuse every day.
She said: “I think in years we’ll look back and wonder if this was a moment of collective irresponsibility… social scientists need to look at this. They have to tackle whether it was always there under the surface. Too many people think now it’s acceptable.
“I’m very confident in who I am, but that’s because of years of building up my strength, my resilience, and my invisible armour.
“You have to surround yourself with love. I have my children, my husband, my family. I let myself be soft with them, because if you’re going to be tough in public, you can’t carry that on forever.
“You have to have somewhere to go to that’s full of love and kindness. It’s important that you can’t let voices of hate trump your own. Their energy fuels mine, their negative energy fuels my positive energy. It keeps me going because I wake up every day and think, I’m not going to let this happen.”
Asked if she reports the messages as hate crimes, she adds: ” I do. I have to…. not only do I report them, I think it’s important that you report the small stuff.
“If you don’t, then it suddenly becomes much bigger, it’s much more difficult to call out, and it becomes much more serious.
“You should confront people whenever you feel uncomfortable. There was a Viscount who took out a £5,000 bounty to have me killed.
“People said to me, ‘You can’t take him to court,’ but I said, I’m going to – you can’t have that, I’m going to call it out.”
“In all places – in places of work, in society – if you feel you’re being attacked or think someone’s saying something under their breath about your sexuality, the way you look or your ethnicity – you need to confront them.
“They’re emboldened by social media, but the thing is with bullies, they’re not used to being confronted.”
Miller notes a rapid shift in tone in public discourse – referencing a much-criticised Daily Mail headline about an “openly gay” judge who ruled on Brexit, which was derided by some as a homophobic dog whistle.
She said: “There’s also been a real shift in the bias of press. The print media’s behaving in a very extreme way as well, the way they described me and the judges in the case.
“And the politicians are not saying this is unacceptable.
“You’ve got the media behaving in an extreme way, you’ve got social media, and you’ve got politicians at the top who are not calling it out.
“It’s like a naughty child – the more they get away with, the naughtier they’ll be.”
For all the abuse Miller received over her anti-Brexit campaigning, her most prominent intervention has proved ineffective at altering the country’s course.
Although a court ruled in favour of her challenge to secure a vote in Parliament on the triggering of Article 50, MPs voted to pass an unamended bill – resisting amendments to guarantee residency to EU citizens in the UK, or to ensure a final vote on the eventual Brexit deal in Parliament.
But Miller is resolute that a change of course on Brexit could come.
She told PinkNews: “It’s late in the day but people are waking up to challenges that are facing them, on both sides. It’s no longer about leave or remain, it’s about how do we execute this?
“It’s about limiting damage, and they are waking up. The problem is, they’ve painted themselves into a corner. How do we get out of the corner?
“I think we’ll end up seeing either another general election, or another final vote. I think we’ll have another vote of some form, because it’s the only way for them to get themselves out of the corner.
“What I worry about is were we to leave with a hard Brexit, and we end up with a government with more of a right-wing agenda, actually we could see individual rights reducing.”
Divides on Brexit do not preclude the campaigner from expressing sympathy to Shahmir Sanni, a former Vote Leave campaigner who alleges that he was outed by the office of the Prime Minister after going public about alleged irregularities in the pro-Brexit campaign group.
Miller said: “There is absolutely no way a government should be involved in blackmailing someone. It was pure blackmail.
“There are certain principles you have to adhere to when you hold office, and rather than ticking them, this government seems to be crossing them off.
“One of them is behaving with integrity, and what they did to that young man was just unforgivable. Sexuality has nothing to do with standing up for what you believe in. It’s got nothing to do with it.”
Miller, born in Guyana and of Indian descent, adds that the UK should be using its unique role to emphasise LGBT equality and human rights across the Commonwealth.
She told PinkNews: “There is a worrying lack of advancement on human rights in many Commonwealth countries, and in some countries it’s actually going backwards.
“In India, in Modi’s government, there are 298 MPs in his government and none of them are Muslim. There is a real rise again of Hindu against Muslim that we haven’t seen since before India became independent.
“Britain should be the shining light for all countries – but especially for Commonwealth countries.
“At the Commonwealth summit, I don’t think it was pushed hard enough that they should be looking at their laws on gay rights, abortion, social justice, access to law – all these things should be pushed by us to those countries.”
She added: “One of the things I’d say is, if you are going to advocate change you have to find champions and leaders and make them the change-makers. Then you have to protect them. You cannot be a delicate flower when you are a change-maker.”
Miller’s style of liberalism has few remaining homes in the Western world, with a resurgence of far-right politics.
She said: “I think we’ve become a bit lazy. Most of the countries in the Western world where we’re seeing society rocking quite violently are based on the same economic model and the same model of capitalism.
“You have to ask, is it capitalism that has not worked? It’s created sinkhole societies, and my biggest advocacy is to move the dial from pure capitalism to responsible capitalism, moving the dial from a single profit line to people, profit and planet.
“That is actually how we change things and create a more equal society.”
Miller continued: “I think we’re moving towards autocracy in many countries, and that will diminish human rights.
“That’s why we have to fight, and that’s a real fight. There are much bigger fights than just individual governments or movements.
“There are three big issues [today], the diminishing of rights, the advancement of AI, and the third one is the ageing of our population.”
Miller was at The Economist‘s conference, which has a focus on LGBT activism and business, to share lessons from her own decades of activism and business with attendees.
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“In all my businesses I’ve operated a flat structure so that we don’t have that hierarchy,” she said of her approach to diversity in her own investment business.
“By staying close to the people working for me, by knowing about their lives, I can actually appreciate the pressures they’re under and the challenges.
“Sometimes it’s very difficult to come from a different background and fit into a very city organisation.
“The second thing I do is, I don’t look at CVs in the way other people do. I look for skills, not qualifications, because everybody’s reached a certain level to get to the interview in the first place.
“What I’m interested in is their story of how they got there – did they struggle, did they save up their pocket money when they were 14 years old? I want to know if they have the personality and the skills that I value in my business, not just qualifications.”