Black History Month

Gina Miller: the campaigner who took the government to court, twice

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This article is a response to our ‘Making History’ campaign for Black History Month. If you would also like to submit a piece for this, please get in touch at editor@bbench.co.uk.

Gina Miller is best known for her legal campaign work. With a background as an investment manager, Miller has since taken on two legal cases. A vocal Remainer, Miller has worked tirelessly to hold the government to account with regards to Brexit.

From a young age, Miller had aspired to work in the legal field, perhaps inspired by her father, Doodnauth Singh, who was the Attorney-General of her country of origin, Guyana. Miller went on to study Law, before she dropped out as a result of abuse from her fellow students.

Miller first rose to prominence in 2016, when she launched a legal case against Theresa May’s government, arguing that the government could not trigger Article 50 without an Act of Parliament. This effectively meant that the Government would have to pass a bill through Parliament before being able to formally exit the European Union.

This case was eventually brought before the Supreme Court, which ruled in favour of Miller. Now known as Miller I, this judgement was fundamental to the preservation of the rights of Parliament, and by extension the rights of the people. 

In fact, I would go as far as to say that the Supreme Court ruling was a slap in the face to the government, and was an important demonstration of the Rule of Law. Amidst the confusion the country had been thrown into as a result of the Referendum of that summer, this case reinstalled confidence in the Parliamentary system for many.

Miller once again hit the headlines in 2019, this time in a case against Boris Johnson, and his decision to prorogue (or suspend) Parliament. This prorogation would have suspended all Parliamentary debate until just 17 days before the Brexit deadline of 31st December 2019. 

Miller II was launched immediately following Johnson’s announcement to prorogue Parliament, and the case was brought before the Supreme Court. This time, the bench ruled unanimously in favour of Miller’s case.

This case almost directly led to the loss of Johnson’s majority in Parliament, as various Conservative MPs defected from the party and others were suspended from the Party. 

Miller’s swift rise to prominence was not easy, and she has been a frequent target for abuse on the basis of her racial identity and her gender. During her first legal challenge, Miller faced particular abuse from Rhodri Phillips, who described her as a “boat jumper” and offered “£5,000 for the first person to ‘accidentally’ run over this bloody troublesome first-generation immigrant”. 

Such abuse on the basis of race resonates with many across the country, and Miller has stood strong in the face of racism throughout her career. Her numerous accolades have led to her being named as ‘The UK’s most influential black person’ in 2018 by Powerlist, a clearly well-deserved title.

However, this award threw Miller into controversy, as critics argued over as to whether Miller is “black enough” to even be considered so. Miller is of Indian descent but originates from the South-American nation of Guyana.

This question as to whether Miller is indeed ‘black enough’ is a pathetic attempt to police racial identities. The notion that people are not allowed to have multiple identities, and must fit into a clearly-defined box is a dated idea which has no place in a modern, and multicultural society.

In the same year, Miller featured again on a similar list of ‘the UK’s most influential Asians’. Miller’s ability to embrace her whole identity, and ability to succeed in spite of abuse she has received because of it is truly inspiring.

Miller’s fight for justice is admirable enough, but so is her ability to persist in spite of racist abuse. Gina Miller embodies the need for us, as a society, to question and scrutinise the actions of those in positions of power

Gina Miller’s name has struck fear into the last two Prime Ministers of this country, may she continue to do the same for years to come.

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