A small group of British MPs will join tourists outside London’s Westminster Palace at midday on Monday (21 August) to witness the last bongs of London’s iconic Big Ben, marking the start of four years of silence for the 157-year-old bell.
Labour MP Stephen Pound said he and a group of “like-minded traditionalist” colleagues would mourn the silencing of the bell, which will have its hammers disconnected to protect the hearing of workers carrying out essential renovation work in the Elizabeth clock tower.
“There’s going to be a small group of us standing there with bowed heads in the courtyard,” Pound said on Sunday.
The comments prompted ridicule from ordinary people and politicians on social media.
Today as Big Ben falls silent, I shall gather with others, heads bowed, wondering what we ever did to deserve such cretinous politicians. https://t.co/TTYFQpnCoO
— Keith Burge (@carryonkeith) August 21, 2017
Big Ben will continue to chime on special occasions such as New Year and Remembrance Sunday, but parliament is looking into a proposal to keep the bell ringing at more regular intervals during the restoration works. Restarting the mechanism is a costly process that takes half a day.
Pound’s Big Ben vigil was also scorned by many of his fellow MPs. “When you see the footage tomorrow of our colleagues who gather at the foot of Big Ben you will not see too many colleagues who have careers ahead of them,” Conservative MP Conor Burns told BBC Radio 4.
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said last week the issue had been blown out of proportion and the silencing of the bell was “not a national disaster”.
The maintenance work will include repairs to the clock’s faces and hands, the installation of an emergency lift and renovation works on the building itself.