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PM distances himself from Big Ben Brexit crowdfunding campaign

by Ace Damon
PM distances himself from Big Ben Brexit crowdfunding campaign

Boris Johnson distanced himself from a public fundraising event to allow Big Ben to shout at Brexit, initially supporting a campaign to allow people to "care" about what they see.

The prime minister's official spokesman said Commons officials had raised concerns about these crowdfunding attempts to mark Britain's departure from the EU later this month.

He added that Johnson is now focused on official government events to mark Britain's departure on January 31.

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The PM suggested on Tuesday that the costs could be borne by a public fundraising campaign

"The authorities of the House of Commons have established that there may be difficulties in accepting money from public donations," said the spokesman.

"I think the prime minister's focus is on the events that he and the government plan to schedule on January 31.

"It's a significant moment in our history and we want to make sure that this is recorded correctly."

A statement by the House of Commons Commission said it would be an "unprecedented approach" to pay the bill through public donations and "any new form of financing would need to be consistent with the principles of ownership and proper oversight of public spending".

When asked whether people should contribute to the appeal, Johnson's spokesman said: "I am just reflecting that parliamentary officials have had some potential problems.

"Our focus is on the events the government is currently working on."

A national crowdfunding campaign was launched on Wednesday – and had raised over £ 100,000 at 3pm on Thursday.

The prime minister suggested on Tuesday that the costs could be covered by members of the public, saying the ministers were "working out a plan so that people could buy a Big Ben bong".

Mark Francois MP
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Mark Francois said he put his hand in his pocket to help the cause

Tory Brexiteer Mark Francois and the StandUp4Brexit group were spearheading plans to help raise money to pay for the "iconic watch" that would ring at the UK game.

Francois told Sky News that he pledged £ 1,000 of his own money to the cause.

Parliament officials have estimated that the cost of allowing Big Ben, currently in restoration work, to sound later this month would be up to £ 500,000.

This is because the clock mechanism in the Elizabeth Tower of parliament, which normally triggers the hammer that hits the Great Bell (known as Big Ben), has been dismantled and removed for renovation.

A temporary strike mechanism and the temporary bell tower floor, where Big Ben is installed, would need to be installed for the famous bell to ring.

The Elizabeth Tower's Great Bell, commonly known as "Big Ben" Photo: UK Parliament / Jessica Taylor
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The Great Bell of Elizabeth Tower, known as "Big Ben" Photo: UK Parliament / Jessica Taylor

When they launched the campaign, organizers said they hoped to raise the money by the weekend, due to the time needed to prepare Big Ben.

If they did not reach the £ 500,000 target, they said the fund would be donated to the charity Help for Heroes, as well as any surplus money if the goal was exceeded.

François, speaking ahead of Downing Street comments, admitted that a "Plan B" could be to play a recording of Big Ben's bongos.

Big Ben has been silent since a £ 61m four-year retirement program began in 2017.

The watch's new dial, unveiled in October, turned out to be dark blue instead of black.

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