July 12, 2020

Massive Ben should chime for Brexit — the miserabilists and pessimists can not get their manner

THE hour of future is approaching quick. The day of liberation is nearly right here. In little greater than two weeks, at 11am on January 31, Brexit will lastly be enacted.

As Britain throws off the shackles of rule by the European Union, a brand new period of nationwide freedom beckons.

Massive Ben should chime for Brexit — the miserabilists and pessimists can not get their manner, writes Leo McKinstry
Getty Photographs – Getty
In response to the Home of Commons Fee, the fee to allow Massive Ben to chime for Brexit can be greater than £500,000
Getty Photographs – Getty

The arrival of British independence, after almost half a century of Brussels domination, is a second for profound celebration.

And there might be no extra applicable approach to mark this historic milestone than a collection of chimes from the mighty bell that’s Massive Ben.

For the landmark is a shining image of each British nationhood and our parliamentary democracy.

Since its completion in 1859, the clock tower synonymous with its well-known bell has develop into a cultural icon, famend internationally.

At a peak of 315ft, its majestic magnificence epitomises the greatness of our nation. The distinctive peal from its huge, 13.5-ton bell is part of the soundtrack of our public life.

However sadly, it now appears probably that the appearance of Brexit can be met by silence from Massive Ben.

If the parliamentary authorities have their manner, no sound will echo from the clock tower on that momentous evening.

Since 2017, the constructing has been present process a serious renovation programme, together with the set up of a elevate, resurfacing of the dials, and restoration of the clock mechanism.

In response to the Home of Commons Fee, which oversees the Westminster property, the price of interrupting this work to allow Massive Ben to chime for Brexit can be greater than £500,000.

We’re informed this enormous invoice arises due to the necessity to set up a short lived ground within the belfry to assist the chiming gear — in addition to the impression of delays, for as much as 4 weeks, within the renovation mission.

Within the view of pessimistic officialdom, the entire thought of the Brexit chimes is simply too costly.

As Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the brand new Speaker of the Commons, put it this week, “You’re speaking about £50,000 a bong.”


The arch-Remainers have, predictably, seized on the issue with glee.

For them, your complete enterprise is rather like Brexit itself — a pointless, expensive distraction.

That negativity is shared by giant elements of the civil service and Westminster institution.

Viewing Brexit with horror, they search to stop any inspirational commemoration of the occasion.

So the supposed heavy prices give them the right excuse to do nothing, simply as they used bureaucratic stalemate to thwart Brexit for years.

Certainly, the Massive Ben issue might be seen as a return to Challenge Worry, as soon as extra, the place dire monetary warnings are deployed to frighten the general public into inaction.

However the British individuals didn’t give in to Challenge Worry 2018, they usually shouldn’t be cowered by extra alarmism this time.

The shrill detrimental voice of Remainers had dominated for too lengthy.

After the decisive Normal Election final month, that’s the noise that ought to be hushed, not the chimes of Massive Ben.

Expressions of nationwide delight are a drive for benevolence and unity, as we witnessed within the current cricket World Cup triumph.

Regardless of all of the Remainer gloom, there’s a super craving to have a good time British-ness.

That spirit may also be seen within the broad widespread assist for the concept of a brand new Pageant of Britain, in 2022, to extol the values of our nation.

As soon as once more, simply as with their negativity over Massive Ben, the pro-EU brigade sneered on the idea as nothing greater than a Pageant of Brexit, which may solely enshrine entrenched divisions.

However in actuality, identical to the profitable post-war Pageant of Britain in 1951, the 2022 Pageant may obtain the very reverse, by enabling us to reconnect with our identification, heritage and future.


The identical might be true of the Brexit chimes on January 31. It may be an event for pleasure and openness, not distress and fearfulness.

Boris Johnson’s suggestion that the £500,000 invoice might be met by an attraction to the general public is being scuppered by senior officers.

In his common inimitable fashion, Boris had requested for crowd-funding residents to “bung a bob for a Massive Ben bong”. There have been indicators the marketing campaign might be taking off.

The passionate Euro-sceptic MP Mark Francois pledged £1,000, whereas there was additionally hypothesis that millionaires corresponding to Lord Ashcroft and Wetherspoon pub chain boss Tim Martin may make giant donations.

Officers yesterday mentioned there was “no authorized foundation” for utilizing public donations. So why shouldn’t the Authorities chip in? In spite of everything, the state is used to bankrolling distinctive nationwide occasions, usually at a far larger price.

A reported £32million went on Meghan and Harry’s marriage ceremony in 2018.

Most of that was swallowed up by safety, however £390,000 alone went on her bridal gown — which isn’t far off the price of the Massive Ben bongs.

Equally, the invoice for the chimes is barely 1 / 4 of the greater than £2million estimated to be spent on the official London fireworks show on New Yr’s Eve.

However earlier than any cash is handed over by the general public or Treasury, the large potential invoice — £120,000 to get the bell to chime, plus the £400,000 price of delays to the tower’s restore — have to be challenged.

In all types of main initiatives, due to weak administration, contractors and consultants usually broaden the budgets for their very own pursuits.

We’ve got seen that course of with the HS2 rail hyperlink, now heading in the right direction to price over £100billion, whereas even with the renovation of Massive Ben the mission’s invoice has risen from an unique £29million to £61million.

On Tuesday evening, one former mission supervisor in Parliament mentioned the estimate for the chimes had been absurdly inflated.

“I can not imagine the prices you’re speaking about,” he informed LBC radio.

The can-do, anti-establishment outlook ensured the victory of Brexit. With the identical creativeness and drive, the marketing campaign for the Massive Ben chimes can succeed.

Actually, it might be the cue for a string of different celeb-rations throughout our land on January 31, like bonfires, fire-work shows or huge screen-ings in metropolis squares.

However on the centre of all of it must be the Westminster clock tower. As Nigel Farage put it, “If Massive Ben doesn’t sound, our nation appears to be like like a joke.”

The miserabilists and pessimists should not get their manner.

Boris Johnson’s suggestion that the £500,000 invoice might be met by an attraction to the general public is being scuppered by senior officers
Getty Photographs – Getty

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