Commons Authorities Dash Dreams for Big Ben Bong on Brexit Day

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 01: Fireworks light up the London skyline and Big Ben just after midnight on January 1, 2015 in London, England. For the first time thousands of people have bought tickets to stand on the banks of the River Thames near Parliament to celebrate the start of …
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Mark Francois MP announced that his final attempts to persuade the House of Commons authority to bong Big Ben, the famous bell in the Queen Elizabeth clock tower on Brexit day have been unsuccessful.

The StandUp4Brexit campaign group had raised some £270,000 from the British public for the estimated £500,000 cost to restore a temporary clapper to the Queen Elizabeth II clock tower, which is currently undergoing conservation work.

In a joint statement with StandUp4Brexit founder Rebecca Ryan, Mr Francois said: “The response from the British people has been fantastic and we are deeply grateful to everyone who donated.

“However, having made final attempts over the last several days to persuade the House of Commons Authorities that Big Ben should chime, we regret to report that we have been unsuccessful and therefore we feel we can no longer ask people to donate. We officially closed the fund at noon today.

“Nevertheless, we did make plain from the outset that if we were unsuccessful in raising the total and facilitating Big Ben to bong, then any remaining funds in the account would be donated to Help for Heroes.

“Every cloud has a silver lining and in this case it is that our military veterans that have been wounded in the service of their country will now receive a very substantial donation, thanks to your generosity.”

Brexiteer Tory MPs had tried and failed to have Big Ben’s chimes included in the Brexit bill, which was passed into law last week. In Mid-January, Prime Minister Boris Johnson openly backed the idea of Britons “bung[ing] a bob for a Big Ben bong”, with StandUp4Brexit launching their crowdfunding campaign shortly thereafter.

However, as the donations began to roll in from generous Britons, Commons officials claimed that they may not be able to accept the money without changing the rules on parliamentary expenditure.

There was also scepticism over the true cost for the work to build the scaffold, restore the clapper, and account for any delays to restoration work, with Mr Francois saying many of his colleagues feel the amount “has been deliberately exaggerated”.

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage highlighted: “It tolled on New Year’s Eve, on Remembrance Sunday, and on Armistice Day. Did this cost £500,000 on each occasion? I would love to know the answer.”

The prime minister appeared to row back his support for crowd-funded bongs after revealing a schedule of events to mark Brexit Day in Westminster, but which did not mention Big Ben.

The House of Commons was then told that the cost of chiming Big Ben on Remembrance Sunday and New Year’s was £14,200 on each occasion — 35 times less than what was quoted for Brexit Day.

Last week, the Mail on Sunday claimed that a Cabinet minister had plotted with Commons authorities to block Big Ben bonging, with the senior politician reportedly saying: “We have to find a way of stopping this. It will be too divisive, Remainers will hate it.”

The Commons source claimed that the government was against the gesture, telling the newspaper: “In public, they might be trying to blame the Commons for being intransigent but in private, they’ve been trying to kill it off.”

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