Gina Miller’s stunning Supreme Court victory against Boris Johnson is the latest legal triumph for the Guyana-born Indian businesswoman, making her a hero to Brexit opponents, and a villain to its supporters.
The 54-year-old now has a 2-0 record against the government of the day in the highest court of the land, dealing hammer blows to the Brexit plans of then-prime minister Theresa May and current incumbent Boris Johnson.
Miller, an investment fund manager, has said she was moved to action immediately as the result of the 2016 referendum became clear, when her 11-year-old son told her: “You’re going to do something, mummy, you always do.”
She decided then that the courts would be her battlefield, becoming the figurehead of the legal fight to give parliament a say on Brexit – a position that has exposed her to an onslaught of death threats and racist abuse.
Born into a privileged household in what was then British Guiana – her father became the country’s attorney general after independence – Miller was sent to an English boarding school aged 11.
“Whilst we missed our parents dreadfully, and it was difficult juggling our home lives with homework and school, it made us who we are today,” she told Vogue magazine.
Two years later the family fell into financial difficulties and she found herself working part-time as a chambermaid while still at school.
She set up her own marketing company in the 1990s and co-founded the investment firm SCM Private in 2009, earning a reputation for campaigning for transparency in investment and pension funds.
Crowds outside the court chanted her name as she left the building, while Twitter users including British comedian Katy Brand called for a statue to be erected in her honour.
“I’m in shock at the enormity of what has just happened,” Miller said after the verdict, while Sky News journalist Lewis Goodall argued that she had had “more impact on the Brexit process than anyone else other than Theresa May.”
But Brexiteers believe she represents a global elite that is using its wealth and power to overturn Britain’s biggest ever democratic mandate.
“Depending on which paper or media you read, I’m either the most hated woman in Britain or I’m standing up for democracy and sovereignty,” she said in January.
But in spite of it all, she said, “I’m going to carry on fighting. I’ve been a campaigner for nearly 20 years — I’m used to a backlash when you ask hard questions.”
Even her children have received threats, while an aristocrat was briefly jailed in 2017 for putting a bounty on her head.
“Sometimes I get very depressed that we live in a country where people think it’s OK to say that because I’m a woman of colour I’m not bright enough or it’s not my place, or comparing me to an animal,” she said.
“It has changed every part of my life.”