She was loudly applauded on the way in, clapped throughout and mobbed at the end. Gina Miller, the woman who forced Theresa May to have a parliamentary vote on Brexit, had ‘come home’ to the Guyana High Commission in London.
The room was packed to over-flowing ‒ about 65 paid for tickets. This was Gina’s first appearance in front of a Guyanese audience.
She was born in Guyana to the distinguished criminal barrister Doodnauth Singh and his wife Savitri, and she grew up on the East Coast Demerara. Gina was the princess and the apple of her father’s eye. She recalled him combing her long hair on the front step and going through his day in court. She said her Guyanese parents taught her discipline (“They would cane us if naughty”) and the virtue of hard work and “just getting on with it”. School at St Gabriel’s in Georgetown reinforced that.
But for her parents Britain was their “hero-land” so at the tender age of 13 she was sent away with her older brother Gary ‒ also present at the High Commission that evening ‒ to school at Eastbourne in Sussex. Her school, not the posh Roedean, as her critics have claimed, was Moira House ‒ “we called it Moron House”. The two of them lived off site so brought themselves up. Gina told a tender story of how she realised it was illegal for her to be acting as an adult carer so she left home in grown up clothes and changed to school uniform at a petrol station halfway along. Gina made money however she could in a variety of menial jobs, as funds were very difficult to get out of Guyana.
From school there was university in London and studying the law: “I wanted to be just like my father, a criminal barrister”, but a degree was left unfinished and there were a variety of jobs in marketing and event management before finding her metier in investment banking. Even there, her father’s dictum of ‘right and wrong’ played its part, so she tried to expose the greed of pension funds and invest her client’s funds ethically. That made enemies in the City of London where she is known as the ‘Black Widow Spider’. Gina said she was “incorrigible” and had the Guyanese mischief gene in her DNA. Trevor Phillips, her excellent interviewer and a fellow Guyanese, said her people back home might call her “own way.”
Her greatest challenge came with what she said was her “impulsive” decision in June 2016 to take Theresa May and her government to court over their failure to allow a parliamentary debate on triggering Article 50 to leave the European Union. She was made the lead litigant and won her case first in the High Court and then in the Court of Appeal. She thought that would be the end of the matter, but the British government appealed to the Supreme Court where she won again. Parliament had to have a say.
They did so in a largely sterile debate, and it went through easily. “In my book they [the Labour Party] were cowards who allowed themselves to be bullied” was her judgement.
But for her bravery, Gina has become a hate figure for the Brexiteers and the lunatic right. She has been subject to a torrent of online abuse, much of it racist, some of it sexist. She revealed that one man had already been convicted, another ‒ a British aristocrat ‒ was due in court on April 4, and eight other cases were being investigated by the police. Surprisingly some of the venom had come from other non-white British who berated her for “rocking the boat.”
Even on the night, the High Commission had to take extra security measures and she recalled with some horror how just the previous Saturday she, with her two children aged 10 and 11, had been accosted at traffic lights and called ‘That Brexit Bitch’ by young thugs.
So, as Britain jumps into the unknown of life outside the EU, one British-Guyanese woman who tried to put some bravery and sense into the situation was back among her people. She smiled, relaxed and more, maybe for the first time in months. They were happy to be on the road at one with her.
John ‘Bill Cotton/Reform’ Mair