PM wants to crowd­fund Big Ben Brexit bong

PM sounds ral­ly­ing call for Jan 31 cel­e­bra­tions and pledges to tackle so­cial care cri­sis ‘in this Par­lia­ment’

The Daily Telegraph - - Front Page - By Tony Diver and Anna Mikhailova

Boris John­son told Brex­i­teers to “bung a bob for a Big Ben bong” as he used his first tele­vi­sion in­ter­view since the elec­tion to call for a crowd­funded Brexit cel­e­bra­tion to off­set the cost of ringing Big Ben. The Prime Min­is­ter also pledged to tackle the so­cial care cri­sis “in this Par­lia­ment” and said he had stood up to US pres­sure to ban Huawei from 5G con­tracts to give Bri­tain the “best pos­si­ble tech­nol­ogy”.

BORIS JOHN­SON called on the Bri­tish pub­lic to “bung a bob for a Big Ben bong” on Jan 31, telling Euroscep­tics if they wanted to cel­e­brate Brexit they must pay for it them­selves.

In his first tele­vi­sion in­ter­view since the elec­tion, the Prime Min­is­ter backed a cam­paign by Tory back­benchers for the bell to chime to mark Brexit.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Com­mons Speaker, has said the cel­e­bra­tion would cost “£50,000 a bong”, or more than £500,000 for 11 bongs at 11pm, when the UK is set to leave the EU.

Mr John­son yes­ter­day told BBC Break­fast: “The bongs cost £500,000 but we’re work­ing up a plan so peo­ple can bung a bob for a Big Ben bong be­cause there are some peo­ple who want to.” He added: “We are look­ing at whether we can fund it.”

Down­ing Street later in­sisted the Govern­ment would have no role in a crowd­fund to raise the money, telling Brex­i­teers to or­gan­ise a na­tional whipround them­selves.

Lord Ashcroft, the bil­lion­aire Tory donor, of­fered to un­der­write the cost if the pub­lic sup­port it while Mark Fran­cois, the Tory MP, has pledged £1,000.

Since 2017, Big Ben has only chimed for sig­nif­i­cant events, such as Re­mem­brance Sun­day and New Year’s Eve.

Ar­range­ments for the bell to ring could take a fort­night to put in place, which could mean the money must be raised over the next two days.

MPS last night queried the £500,000 fig­ure, with Tim Loughton brand­ing the fig­ure “ridicu­lous”.

Mean­while, Mr John­son’s team has drawn up plans to mark Brexit that it hopes will avoid any sense of tri­umphal­ism among the Brex­i­teers over Re­main­ers. The plans are due to be made pub­lic next week.

Asked about Brexit in yes­ter­day’s in­ter­view, Mr John­son re­sponded: “It’s one of my least favourite sub­jects be­cause we need to move on.”

So­cial care

Mr John­son pledged to “get on and deal with” the so­cial care cri­sis, promis­ing to tackle the is­sue “in this Par­lia­ment”.

In the March 2017 Bud­get, Theresa May’s govern­ment said it would pub­lish a Green Pa­per on so­cial care that sum­mer. How­ever, it has still not been re­leased.

Mr John­son said: “There is a pro­posal. This has been shirked by gov­ern­ments for about 30 years. Be­cause we have the ma­jor­ity we need, we’re go­ing to get on and deal with this so that peo­ple get the care they need in old age but don’t need to sell their home.”

Huawei

Mr John­son re­sisted pres­sure from the United States to ban Huawei from Bri­tain’s 5G net­works and said the Bri­tish pub­lic de­served ac­cess to the “best pos­si­ble tech­nol­ogy”.

The Prime Min­is­ter said crit­ics should come up with an al­ter­na­tive pro­posal to Huawei.

The com­ments came hours af­ter a del­e­ga­tion of se­nior US of­fi­cials told the Bri­tish govern­ment it would be “mad­ness” to go ahead with the deal.

Mr John­son told BBC Break­fast he did not want to “prej­u­dice” the UK’S abil­ity to share in­tel­li­gence with its al­lies, but added: “Now, if peo­ple op­pose one brand or an­other, then they have to tell us which is the al­ter­na­tive.”

Re­spond­ing to his com­ments, a US govern­ment of­fi­cial told The Daily Tele­graph: “The United States is en­gag­ing on this is­sue to ad­dress very real se­cu­rity con­cerns, not to ad­vance our eco­nomic in­ter­ests. In fact, in­dus­try lead­ers in tele­com net­work­ing equip­ment in­clude Euro­pean com­pa­nies, Eric­s­son and Nokia, as well as Korean firm Sam­sung.”

Royal fam­ily

Asked about “Megxit” and its im­pact on the Royal fam­ily, Mr John­son said he was “ab­so­lutely con­fi­dent they are go­ing to sort this out”. He added: “My view on this is very straight­for­ward, I am a mas­sive fan, cer­tainly of the Queen and of the Royal fam­ily, as a fan­tas­tic as­set to our coun­try.

Ve­g­an­ism

The Prime Min­is­ter said he hoped to lose some weight, but re­jected a ve­gan diet which he said “re­quires so much con­cen­tra­tion”. He said: “I take my hat off to ve­g­ans who can han­dle it, who can man­age to avoid all the non-ve­gan prod­ucts, but ... you can’t eat cheese can you, if you’re a ve­gan? It’s just a crime against cheese lovers.”

Harry Dunn

Mr John­son said the chances of the US sus­pect charged in con­nec­tion with Harry Dunn’s death re­turn­ing to the UK were “very low”. Last week the Home Of­fice sub­mit­ted an ex­tra­di­tion re­quest for Anne Sa­coolas af­ter she was charged with caus­ing the 19-year-old’s death by dan­ger­ous driv­ing. He said that while it was “right” to make the re­quest, he did not think it likely that the US would re­spond pos­i­tively.

Radd Seiger, the Dunn fam­ily’s spokesman, said: “My anal­y­sis of the prospects of suc­cess are di­a­met­ri­cally op­posed to Mr John­son’s, given my de­tailed dis­cus­sions with of­fi­cials both in Lon­don and Wash­ing­ton.”

Boris John­son ap­peared on BBC Break­fast in his first tele­vi­sion in­ter­view since the elec­tion

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