The True & Fair leader doesn't even want to rejoin the EU
Church House, Westminster
“The problem with politicians is that they think they can fix everything alone”, a young man says. “They’re all egotists.”
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He should be careful where he lobs the E-word around here. We are gathered in a Westminster back room to witness Gina Miller announce the first tranche of candidates for her True & Fair party. In January, she announced her party’s existence to the world at the Queen Elizabeth II centre. The venue was too much of an air hangar. Back then empty seats were everywhere, as silent and spooky as graves. Miller, we must concede, is learning. She will not play roulette with humiliation again. Today, several pension age supporters are forced to stand.
One pensioner who does have a chair is Mark, a retired small businessman from Morecambe. He is talking about Boris Johnson — “Words just fail me” — and so is everybody else. Again. I suspect that half the room, and much of the point of True & Fair, is about hating Boris Johnson. Well, don’t we all at this point? But would we spend a million quid on a new political party to demonstrate it?
Miller arrives. Her speeches are not speeches. They are splenetic state of the nation tirades. She blasts “unicorn thinking”. She says she is sick of being laughed at by foreign friends shocked by the United Kingdom’s reduced status, sick too, of “sitting on the sofa shouting at the television or the radio”. (I am forced to imagine watching Question Time with Miller, and a shudder travels up and down my spine.) All of us, Miller says, are “worried and fed-up”. It should be her party’s name.
Miller wants British governance to be more legalistic. More rules, more oaths, more oversight committees. She has a lawyer’s faith in the rules. She does not see that human beings are ambiguous and amorphous, and that for parliamentary democracy to function at all, there will always be moments when the rules must be stretched, if not broken. Successful political systems have to account for crooked timber, and humanity. Miller would rather wrap our politics and politicians in so much legal gaffer tape.
She kept saying that things needed to be “grown-up” — but we are past all that. British politics is a rolling Satyricon now. Miller cannot comprehend that her toys-out-of-the-pram performances during the Brexit years made her one of the shows leading child stars.
Nine candidates are introduced. Half of me, forgetting that I was watching the Gina Miller Show, wanted Hugh Grant or Chuka Umunna to appear. Just for old Brexit times’s sake. Instead we had nine civilians. Miller introduced herself last. She will be Truthing and Fairing Chris Grayling’s Epsom and Ewell seat at the next general election. How much is this all costing True and Fair, someone asks her. Close to a million pounds. Cheaper ways to crash and burn do exist.
I ask Miller why she isn’t a Liberal Democrat. (In the recent past she used to address their conference, and had to deny she wanted to be their leader.) The room giggles nervously. She says they wouldn’t make the necessary reforms to the way the government works.
At morning’s close, a cantankerous older gentleman repeatedly asks Miller why we cannot rejoin the EU. A back and forth argument over Brexit begins. She looks embarrassed, then says “there are no legal mechanisms for rejoining the EU… it would take over a decade”.
The old man represents much of the room — they give him the day’s longest and loudest applause — and the entirety of Miller’s fanbase. They are still in Brexit mode. They want her to be their Joan of Arc again.
That Miller refuses that role renders both her, and her party, in search of a purpose.