Brexiteer MP Launches Crowdfunding Campaign to Have Big Ben Bong for Brexit

Technicians carry out cleaning and maintenance work on one of the faces of the Great Clock atop the landmark Elizabeth Tower that houses Big Ben, attached to the Houses of Parliament, in London, on August 19, 2014. A team of abseilers is busy this week cleaning up the clock faces …
BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images

Conservative MP Mark Francois has launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise the £500,000 needed to restore the bong to Big Ben for Brexit.

The deputy chairman of the European Research Group (ERG) wrote on BrexitCentral that in order to ensure the work to restore to clapper is completed in time to mark 11 p.m. on January 31st, 2020, the public would need to hit the fundraising target by this weekend.

Campaign group StandUp4Brexit is operating the fundraiser on GoFundMe, and as of the time of publication Britons had donated nearly £60,000.

“We are confident of [meeting the target] but if for any reason we fall short of the £500,000 target, the fund will be donated to Help for Heroes. Similarly, if we exceed the target any surplus will also be donated to the same charity,” Mr Francois wrote.

The Brexiteer MP has been campaigning to have Big Ben bong on Brexit Day, even attempting to ensure that the gesture would be included in the Brexit bill — but the Speaker of the House of Commons did not chose the amendment for debate.

Mr Francois even joked that he and veteran eurosceptic Sir Bill Cash would climb up the Queen Elizabeth II Tower “with a giant mallet and whack it myself and save the taxpayer half a million quid”.

The clocktower is currently undergoing conservation work and as such has been on limited functionality since 2017. The regular clock mechanisms have been dismantled and removed for refurbishment.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson revealed that he was exploring the possibility of crowdfunding from the British public and that the cost of restoring the temporary clapper, which was used to ring in the New Year and mark armistice day, would cost £500,000.

However, Commons officials have reportedly said that crowdfunding is  “an unprecedented approach” and there is “no legal basis” for them to accept the funds and undertake the work. A Commons authority spokesman told The Sun: “There has been a suggestion that the cost of striking the Bell could be covered by donations made by the public. This would be an unprecedented approach.

“The House of Commons has well established means of voting through the expenditure required to allow it to function, and to preserve its constitutional position in relation to Government.

“Any novel form of funding would need to be consistent with principles of propriety and proper oversight of public expenditure.”

Mr Francois told the tabloid that there is “considerable scepticism” over the amount the Commons Commission has quoted for the temporary work “which many feel has been deliberately exaggerated”.

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage asked on Wednesday: “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.”

Mr Farage has also announced that a Leave Means Leave bid to hold a 10,000-strong street party to celebrate the United Kingdom leaving the EU on Parliament Square has been approved, with Britons able to register their interest in buying tickets.

While critics have claimed that to mark Brexit Day with a street party in Parliament Square or, as some have suggested, ringing church bells, would be “divisive”, Mr Francois said that Big Ben ringing out Brexit would provide some “closure” for the country.

“We have, as a nation, been arguing over this for years — everybody knows that — and this could provide a moment of catharsis,” he told Sky News.

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