The newly elected speaker of the House of Commons has given Brexiteers the Christmas gift they’ve campaigned for by announcing he will allow Big Ben to bong on January 31.
Sir Lyndsay Hoyle said he was “not going to stand in the way” of MPs who want the iconic bell to chime at 11pm on Brexit Day, reversing the decision of his predecessor John Bercow.
More than 50 MPs launched a campaign to get the bell to ring earlier this month to mark the UK’s departure from the European Union after a commission led by the previous speaker blocked any “celebratory” ringing on March 29, the date the UK was supposed to leave.
‘A significant moment’
With the Commons having waved through the Withdrawal Agreement Bill on Friday by a huge majority, Sir Lyndsay said of his decision to allow Big Ben to sound: “If that’s what the house wants, I’m not going to stand in the way because of my view.”
He told the Telegraph: “It will be a significant moment and people will do different things, and if the house wishes to do that, so be it. I certainly won’t personally block anything.”
Big Ben is housed in the Palace of Westminster’s Elizabeth Tower and has been silent to protect workers carrying out renovation work on the building since 2017, chiming only for Remembrance Sunday and to ring in the New Year.
“I just hope it is fit because we are still repairing it!” said Sir Lyndsay.
‘Part of a national celebration’
Five DUP MPs and 47 Conservative MPs led by arch Brexiteers Mark Francois and David Davis signed a petition to reverse Bercow’s decision to keep the bell silent.
Francois told the Telegraph : “The fact that Speaker Bercow was not a fan of Brexit is not exactly a state secret, and this explains his deep reluctance to allow Big Ben to chime on exit day.
“However, we are now in a new era, and it seems inconceivable to me and my colleagues that Big Ben would not form part of a national celebration to leave the EU.
“If readers agree, then I would encourage them to email their own member of parliament to this effect to encourage them to join our campaign so that our national icon of Big Ben will chime to mark the fact that we are again a free country.”
‘Anti Brexit toad’
The Independent said the campaign group Leave.EU “welcomed” the new speaker’s decision in a series of tweets, describing Sir Lyndsay as “a refreshing change from the sanctimonious anti-Brexit toad who preceded him.”
The chief executive of anti-Brexit campaign group Best for Britain Eloise Todd said: “For whom the bell tolls might be joyful for a couple of a Brexiteers … but Brexit, for others, means economic uncertainty and being poorer. That is not something I want to herald with bells.”
Bercow will deliver the Alternative Christmas Message on Channel 4 in which he will call for “personal courtesy” in politics.
The broadcast is an alternative to the Queen’s Christmas Day address shown on BBC and Bercow will call on the nation to be inspired by the youth and “try to re-establish a civility of discourse” following a period in which “democracy has come in for a pounding.”
Bercow should get peerage says new speaker
Sir Lyndsay told BBC radio’s Pienaar Politics programme that Bercow should be given a peerage to the House of Lords.
“My view is every speaker has been offered a peerage, so custom and practice says that’s what’s always happened,” said the new speaker. “It doesn’t have to be taken but, personally, I think if that has always happened then we should continue with that.
“I think it should be offered to him. He has served the house, he served for ten years, he did some great things. And that’s what makes the difference.”