Tenacious campaigner and vocal Brexit opponent Gina Miller captivated and inspired the packed house at the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution on 5th September at the sell-out event hosted by Mr. B’s Emporium of Reading Delights. In a candid conversation with Jessica Johannesson Gaitán, she discussed her book Rise, speaking with verve and humour about her successes, failures and life lessons learned so far. She made a powerful impression on many in the audience.
Gina described herself as a very pragmatic campaigner; she is guided by the questions, “Where can you make a difference? Where is it that you can have a practical solution?” Describing herself as ‘a bit of geek’, with an interest in history and law and the erosion of democracy, Gina’s detailed knowledge illuminated all her comments. “Our democracy was being eroded.”
Looking back at her experience challenging the government and fighting Brexit, she said, “I thought others would join me. I completely misjudged that morally and financially. It was lonely. I did not know that I would be harassed in that way and that my children and my staff would require protection. I’m not good at reaching out and asking for help. I’ve made a lot of mistakes. I talk a lot about failure in the book. But I started getting messages from people, not just of support. I received stories from people who were looking for guidance. If I have the ability to stand up and make use of a platform for those who cannot themselves, then I will.”
“The divides are getting worse,” Gina continued. “We have always taken for granted the ground that we walk on – the foundation of values and principles. It’s really important that we reach out to the other side of the debate. We have to actually be involved in those conversations. If you look at history, it’s not unusual to see attacks on the rule of law, on the media and on experts. What we haven’t seen before is the power of social media.” She reflected, “If someone is criticising you and not your argument, you’ve won. They have validated you.” She went on to say “There is a danger that social media is becoming anti-social media. It is ghettoising.”
“It’s really important that each of us wakes up. We have a responsibility. What is it that we teach our children? We have to think about the messages that we are giving them. My message to young people is: be proud of who you are. You’re going to fail. Have a strategy.”
“I’m an incredibly optimistic person,” Gina said. “I’ve experienced domestic violence and a failed marriage. I don’t tend to look backwards. But in writing my book I realised that I do have a strategy and also what I had achieved.”
Born in what was then British Guyana, Gina described the vision of Britain that she grew up with as ‘Eldorado.’ Her father was the country’s Attorney General; she described her mother as an eco-warrior. Coming to England as a youngster was a dream come true. However, when Guyana was in crisis and her parents were not permitted to send funds to the UK, Gina had to work two hours a day as a chambermaid while she was at school. This was just one example of Gina’s courage and determination.
In the wide-ranging question and answer session after her talk, Gina aired the possibility that one of the main parties would make a People’s Vote part of their manifesto. “How will politicians survive this? Why would a politician want Brexit on their hands?,” she asked.
On the People’s Vote, Gina said that we have to be very careful. “There is a danger of the far-right hijacking it. A vote will be handed back to us. MPs have to gift it to us. We have only ten weeks left. The various anti-Brexit groups need to pull together. A general election is more likely. What happens few weeks will be critical. There is no Parliamentary arithmetic for any Brexit. The DUP has been suspiciously quiet. Time is against us.”
“One positive development is that we have more people talking about politics now than we have in a long time.” When asked to distill Brexit, Gina called it, “A cry for change. We cannot shut it out. We have to confront it.”
When asked what advice she would give her younger self from the perspective she has today, she said, “I didn’t know that I could reach out for help. Reach out: people are kinder than you think.”