'Bung a bob for a Big Ben bong': Boris floats Brexit bells crowdfunder

2 min

London (AFP)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday said the government was working on a publicly-funded plan to get the currently silent Big Ben to chime when Britain leaves the European Union.

Some eurosceptic lawmakers have been pushing for a celebratory peal to mark Brexit at 2300 GMT on January 31, despite the tower in which the world-famous bell is housed being closed for repairs.

Hopes were raised when the former House of Commons speaker John Bercow, who rejected the request, was replaced just before the last election in December.

But it again appears to be ruled out on cost grounds: the House of Commons Commission, which runs parliament, was told on Monday the cost of an exceptional bong was £500,000 ($650,000, 580,000 euros).

The original estimate was £120,000. The increase comes from the need to install and remove a temporary floor to ring the bell.

Johnson, though, said all was not lost.

"The bong cost £500,000 but we're working a plan so people can bung a bob for a Big Ben bong because there are some people who want to," he told BBC television.

A bob is the equivalent of 5p and a slang expression for money.

"Because Big Ben is being refurbished, they seem to have taken the clapper away, so we need to restore the clapper in order to bong Big Ben on Brexit night.

"And that's expensive, so we're looking at whether the public can fund it."

The famous bell, housed in the Elizabeth Tower of the Palace of Westminster in central London, has been silent since August 2017 due to major renovations scheduled to last four years.

An exception is made for Remembrance Sunday and the New Year.

Pro-Brexit campaigners are hoping to mark Britain's departure. The Leave.EU groups wants "patriots to ring the bell of their local church... to celebrate Britain's new-found independence!"

The "Bells for Victory" peal is planned for February 1.

"If the powers that be don't like it? We'll do it anyway!" the group vowed.