DMU honorand: Gina Miller
During our graduation ceremonies, we recognise with honorary degrees the achievements of those linked in some way with the university, those who have made an impact in their chosen fields, those who share our beliefs, values and commitment, who can therefore be role models for our students. Here is the citation given to businessperson, charity founder and campaigner Gina Miller who mounted a successful legal challenge to the Prime Minister’s decision to invoke Article 50 in the wake of the EU referendum.
The distinguished guest we honour now is a businessperson, charity founder and campaigner. Her concern for community and citizenship, and for an honest clarity in our dealings with institutions, connects her work in all three fields.
Gina Miller believes in people, and in the people; she is a democrat, in the truest sense. She is also a ‘traitor’, a ‘black widow spider’ and a ‘boat-jumper’ – at least in the words of some of her vilest critics.
These epithets emerged when she had the audacity to step into the spotlight of national life, and history, in 2016. In the wake of the UK’s EU Referendum, Gina Miller was the citizen who dared to challenge the Prime Minister’s decision to invoke Article 50 – the legal mechanism for starting ‘Brexit’ – without letting Parliament have a say.
And she won.
She had come to the fray armed with legal education and training, a career in investment management, and 20 years of campaigning for transparency and accountability, most notably in the fund management industry.
Gina Miller’s haters – strangers in the street have told her precisely how they hope to see her die – did not reckon with a strength and sense of purpose she developed in overcoming bullies, when she first moved to Britain from Guyana; her family background was in law and politics. They did not reckon with a woman who had survived being brutally attacked by a gang of men, when she was a student. In her social campaigns, too, she said she has seen her share of hostility.
After the shockwave of the Referendum result, Gina Miller said she was concerned that experienced politicians – our supposed leaders – ‘appeared not to know that only Parliament can take away from people rights that Parliament had granted’. They were instead proposing to trigger withdrawal from the EU through the royal prerogative, ‘an ancient right that kings once used to rid themselves of enemies’. Brexit was one thing; an unchallenged government ‘ripping a hole through our democratic structures’ quite another.
The founder of the True and Fair Foundation charity – its stated aims to increase common good in an era of growing inequality, and to encourage those enjoying success to make it count by sharing their success – also insists we should ‘shine a light in dark corners’, and tell the stories that are not being told; that we stand for accountability and openness; that we strive to ensure industry and institutions understand their societal responsibility – something each of us can encourage, through our own personal example.
Change begins with the individual. Reflecting on the trials of taking a stand, Gina Miller said: “I wondered, ‘How do I fight this’? And then I realised: I had to be me. I had to be completely honest and not let them get to me. If you believe what you are doing, people can’t touch you. Don’t give them permission to destroy you.”
Even in the chaos and confusion around Brexit, Gina Miller chooses to find hope for positive change: a chance to change the angry language and an opportunity to move beyond national boundaries, when tackling problems common to the disadvantaged worldwide.
Today we will encourage our graduating students to strive to do the right thing, not the easy thing, as they truly begin to make their mark. Through their years of study, travel and experience at DMU, we have encouraged them to work with and for their communities; to look beyond national boundaries and be active and engaged global citizens; to attend to detail, and to find new and creative ways to apply their skills and knowledge. Ours is a strong, inclusive institution, and our students are now working with the United Nations to support the promotion of integrity and strong institutions.
Above all, we will encourage our graduating students to be true to themselves.
Gina Miller, in your work and life, you embody qualities that we admire, aspire to and encourage. We are proud to welcome you to the DMU family today; we look forward to working with you in the future; and we are delighted to be able to make you an Honorary Doctor of Letters.