Brexit activist Gina Miller: I never expected this much racist abuse

Since judges ruled that parliament had to vote on Brexit in her legal challenge, Miller has received torrents of abuse online.

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Gina Miller, the investment fund manager and activist who led the Brexit legal challenge, has battled with social media abuse since judges ruled that parliament should vote on the Brexit process.

Speaking at Westminster yesterday, in a conversation with Tulip Siddiq MP to mark International Women’s Day, she said that after the torrent of abuse she has received online, she doesn’t “know Britain any more.” A myth she insisted should be busted is the idea that this hate speech is “unpremeditated”. “I’ve had letters with the most expensive stationery, beautiful handwriting, with the most poisonous words,” she said.

A man was charged this week with malicious communications with racially aggravated factors for hate messages he sent to Miller on social media. The man, Rhodri Colwyn Philipps, 50, is the 4th Viscount St Davids. 

After he was charged, Miller received more abuse, she told Tulip Siddiq. “I got messages that said, ‘He’s a hero, you deserve to be a slave, he is a real Brit, you aren’t.'” Miller has said after choosing to lead the legal challenge, she expected abuse directed at the fact she is a woman. “I never expected the racism. We’re in 2017 in Britain! I don’t understand what’s happened. Lines have been crossed, permission has been given.” She receives violent sexual and racial abuse on a daily basis. “Emails, phone calls – even LinkedIn, so you know who they are!”

Philipps will appear in court on 4 April and the ruling could set a precedent for British law, Miller said: “The CPS have not charged someone who’s used social media before to incite sexual and racial violence.”

Although admitting she was “shocked” by the “hatred”, she invited the audience to “speak up” when faced with abuse and expressed concern over the “rising populism” in the world, which she says is historically linked to the rise of “autocratic leaders”. Disappointed by the result of the parliamentary vote on the Brexit deal triggered by the ruling in her legal challenge, she said she would not be bringing a new court case but would ask the court to uphold her case’s judgement if Theresa May “doesn’t deliver” on the Brexit deal, because the court ruled that only parliament has the right to take away or diminish citizens’ rights.

“Because Article 50 shoots the bullet, it isn’t until it hits that we are going to know which rights are lost or diminished. And then there will need to be an act, a debate in parliament. It is a constitutional case about rights,” she concluded.

Pauline Bock is a New Statesman contributing writer based in Brussels. She writes about Brexit, the EU, France and the Macron presidency.