Bongs for Brexit: LBC’s Nick Ferrari and Wetherspoons boss pledge thousands

14 January 2020, 23:26

EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Brexit will not be marked by the bonging of Big Ben's bells due to costs, but Nick Ferrari has offered to crowdfund cash to get the bell chiming.

Several Tory MPs have floated the idea the historic bell should chime to mark the date the UK leaves the EU, but Commons authorities said the cost would be £500,000.

LBC's Nick Ferrari ridiculed the decision and immediately offered £1,000 to get the bell ringing.

And he started a campaign by contacting leading Brexiters such as Lord Bamford and Tim Martin from Wetherspoons to help get the rest of the money.

As Nick revealed the 'Spoons boss stumped up £5,000 to the campaign with dozens of LBC listeners offering cash to the campaign.

Previously in Parliament, an early day motion to urge Commons authorities "to make arrangements to ensure that Big Ben will chime at 11 pm [on January 31], to provide an appropriate national focus for this truly historic event," were put forward, but not selected by the previous Speaker, John Bercow.

The issue was discussed at a meeting of the House of Commons Commission on Monday, however, it was ultimately ruled out after it was revealed that it would cost £500,000 - up from the original estimate of £120,000.

The expanded budget stems from the need to put in and remove a temporary floor in order to ring the bell.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the BBC, “The bongs cost £500,000… but we’re working up a plan so that people can bung a bob for a Big Ben bong”

The PM said: “We need to restore the clapper, in order to bong Big Ben on Brexit night, and that is expensive”

Big Ben's bells could bong for Brexit with Nick Ferrari's campaign
Big Ben's bells could bong for Brexit with Nick Ferrari's campaign. Picture: PA

A source told The Daily Telegraph: "No-one in the meeting thought it was worth spending £500,000 on having Big Ben strike the hour on one occasion.

"When you consider what else that money could be spent on, it's very hard to make an argument in favour of it."

Another source reportedly said there wasn't enough time to plan for the bell to ring, saying the project team would need "at least two weeks" to prepare.

Conservative MP Mark Francois told the paper he was "very disappointed" with the commission's decision.

"I've already offered to go up Big Ben myself, ably assisted by (European Scrutiny Committee chair) Bill Cash, to ring the bell myself to save money," he said.

"If all else fails, the BBC must have a recording of Big Ben chiming they could play at 11pm at no cost whatsoever to taxpayers."

SNP MP Patrick Grady (Glasgow North), however was not in favour of the move: "For many people across the UK, leaving the EU on January 31 will not be a cause for celebration.

"The bombast and triumphalism of the hard Brexiteers who want to hear Big Ben chime to mark that moment is hardly in keeping with the PM's desire to bring the country together.

Big Ben's bongs were temporarily silenced in 2017 for the safety of workers involved in a four-year restoration scheme of the Elizabeth Tower.

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