Stephen Pound leads Big Ben bongs backlash (and he’s not joking)
Some colleagues are a bit miffed…
Labour MP Stephen Pound has appointed himself leader of the fledgling parliamentary movement protesting against the temporary silencing of Big Ben.
The Great Bell chimed at noon today and - apart from special occasions such as Remembrance Sunday and New Year – it will not sound again for four years while maintenance takes place.
To mark the occasion, some MPs made a plan to gather outside the Palace of Westminster
Pound, who organised the gathering, told the Press Association: "There's going to be a small group of us standing there with bowed heads in the courtyard."
Asked if he was joking, the Ealing North MP replied: "No, of course I'm not, of course we're going to be there - a group of like-minded traditionalists."
He went on: "We're going to be gathering outside the members' entrance, gazing up at this noble, glorious edifice, listening to the sounds rolling across Westminster, summoning true democrats to the Palace of Westminster.
"We'll be stood down there with heads bowed but hope in our hearts."
As the clock struck twelve, Pound even shed a tear. He later told Sky News: "Brightness has fallen from the air, the sound has gone. Now it sounds like we’re sort of anthropomorphising something or being sentimental or silly, but it’s not.
"The news you’ve just given there, the horrors that are taking place in the world, actually in this country we can either pull the duvet over our heads and forget about them or we can cherish the stability of those things, the continuity that actually make our society, culture and community strong and safe. And the bells are a small part of that, but a part worth cherishing and keeping and I miss them already."
But his colleagues Jess Phillips and Wes Streeting were unimpressed, having taken to Twitter to slam the parliamentary protest movement.
Phillips declared: "Hope in our hearts that when the sodding bell returns we might of realised how ridiculous we look for giving a toss."
Streeting said: "I will be sat with a good book instead."
Labour’s Chris Bryant also mocked Tory MPs over their attitude towards Big Ben – apparently unware that he was quoting a Labour colleague.
Even more scathing was Tory MP Conor Burns, who suggested that most of MPs worried about Big Ben were has-beens.
He told BBC Radio 4's Westminster Hour: "All I would say about it is I look forward to getting back to September and back down to business and I think when you see the footage of our colleagues who gather at the foot of Big Ben you will not see too many colleagues who have careers ahead of them."
The renovation of the 13.7-tonne Great Bell includes the installation of a lift and repairs to the clock's hands, mechanism and pendulum. It was expected to cost £29 million but MPs have raised concerns that the bill could soar to £60 million.
Parliamentary officials have insisted workers' hearing would be put at “serious risk” if the bell continued chiming.