There is very definitely only one Gina Miller. Half the population may well rejoice in that fact and the other half knows that we could do with many more like her. Either way a visit from Miller is an event to remember.
Thursday 19 May was her day to visit Oxford, where St Barnabas Church was the 20th venue on her whistlestop launch tour for the newly established True and Fair party.
Explaining her reasons for making the move into politics, she gave a damning account of how, in her view, this country has been harmed by the lack of accountability of its current government.
Covid, she says, has shaken our complacency. It “has exposed the fragility and weakness to the extent that ordinary people, who really were not that interested in politics, and who believed that everything would be okay, have realised that things are not okay, that it really is them and us”.
She said there had been a change of sentiment in the electorate, and the duopoly of the existing parties was not adequately responding to this.
She said however that apathy remains an enemy, with the non-voting public being about 25% of the electorate, and unless this changes the next election will go to the Tories. She was deeply worried that the progress towards elective dictatorship would continue.
Enlarging on this theme she said “They are taking away our rights, not by stealth but by statute”. This, she said, was evident from the various new acts given royal assent at the end of April, and that the Queen’s speech contains proposals to limit freedom of information requests, privatise Channel 4 and further intimidate the BBC. There are new acts pending, she said, “with wonderful names but beneath them they are closing down our democracy”. She was especially worried about the new human rights legislation, which proposes precisely the opposite. We should think, she said, of 1933.
For her, it was the Elections Bill, now Act, with the disenfranchisement of many young voters and the subjugation of the Electoral Commission, which was the last straw and triggered her decision to enter politics.
“What we have to do” she told us, “is think, how do we bring in change that is effective, pragmatic and sustainable going forward?”.
She demanded a change to the Parliamentary culture in which 58 MPs have been accused of sexual harassment or criminal activity, accusations of bullying continue, and alcohol flows freely at the Palace of Westminster. She called for tighter legislation governing MPs’ behaviour, and an end to prime ministerial prerogative powers.
The status quo, she said, was not good enough. “We cannot allow the future generation to become the burdened generation, who will have to clear up the mess that we left because we stayed silent too long”.
She referred to the challenges of the future, which we should now be concentrating on, including climate change, mass movement of people and the demographic timebomb. Having to focus on the corrupt actions of this government is a huge distraction.
Finally she said that she was anticipating the next general election would occur well before 2024, and might even be imminent, with the likeliest outcome being a hung Parliament. She called upon those who share her views to be ready.
In answer to questions, she talked about her previous track record, in particular, famously, having launched two successful landmark legal challenges against the government: firstly in 2016 ensuring that Parliament had a say on invoking Article 50, and then in 2019 in having the prorogation of parliament declared unlawful. She observed that it has been a lonely experience, with many potential supporters staying silent because of intimidation. She herself was a victim of a hate campaign in social media and in the popular press, much of which has racist overtones. She spoke movingly about having to deal with death threats against her children.
Not surprisingly, she was asked about how it felt to see herself portrayed on stage in Tim Walker’s new drama “Bloody Difficult Women” in which she is pitted against Mrs May. She had had no input into this play, and when she went to see it incognito, she found the experience bizarre and unsettling. She realised that at the time of her legal cases she had repressed emotions which came to life when she saw the events acted out on stage.
The obvious question to anybody who founds a new progressive party is whether they fear it will divide the anti-Tory vote and give this government a free pass. When I asked her this, her response was that her target voters were not primarily those who would vote Labour or Liberal Democrat, but rather the many disenchanted Tories in selected constituencies whom recent events have rendered homeless.
Her visit to Oxford was part of a national tour, which has already taken her to 19 venues including Yorkshire, Humber, Eastbourne, Brighton, and Nottingham. More are to come.
The author is Chair of Oxford for Europe. This article does not imply any endorsement of the Party by Oxford For Europe or West England Bylines.