LONDON: This Dec 30 file photo shows a face of the Big Ben clock tower a day before New Year celebrations.—Reuters
LONDON: This Dec 30 file photo shows a face of the Big Ben clock tower a day before New Year celebrations.—Reuters

LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday proposed a crowdfunding campaign to allow Big Ben bell in parliament’s famous clock tower to ring out when Britain is due to leave the European Union.

The 13.7-tonne bell has been largely silent since 2017 while renovation work is carried out on the Elizabeth Tower which houses it, sounding only for important events such as New Years Eve celebrations.

The prime minister was speaking after a House of Commons Commission dismissed the proposal for the bell to sound for Brexit because it would be too expensive.

Money is required to install a temporary floor within the tower to house the mechanism used to strike Big Ben and pay for delays to the restoration work.

Johnson said it would cost 500,000 pounds ($648,450) to allow Big Ben to sound at 2300 GMT on Jan 31, the moment Brexit is officially due to take place. But he said people could donate cash to pay for it.

“We are working up a plan so people can bung a bob for a Big Ben bong,” Johnson told the BBC in an interview.

“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 is expensive.” Johnson’s spokesman said there wasn’t a specific government fund to collect the money, but that if others raised it the government would hold talks with parliamentary authorities.

Whatever happens, the government will make sure Jan 31 is “properly marked”, he added.

Published in Dawn, January 15th, 2020