Big Ben crowdfunder organisers admit defeat as questions raised about donated money

PUBLISHED: 14:30 27 January 2020 | UPDATED: 14:34 27 January 2020

Mark Francois speaking in his office in the Houses of Parliament. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA.

Mark Francois speaking in his office in the Houses of Parliament. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA.

PA Archive/PA Images

Organisers of a campaign to pay for Big Ben to ring out to mark Brexit have admitted defeat, as questions were raised around the donated money.

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The appeal raised £272,770, fuelled by Boris Johnson's suggestion that "we are working up a plan so people can bung a bob for a Big Ben bong".

But no such plan existed and the House of Commons Commission estimated that the cost of bringing the bell back into use could be as much as £500,000.

The fundraising drive, led by Stand Up 4 Brexit and Tory MP Mark Francois on the GoFundMe website, was cancelled at noon on Monday, with the money raised now being donated to the Help for Heroes military charity.

But Scram News reported that Help for Heroes are nonpolitical and could be inclined to refuse the money similar to how it declined a donation from the far-right organisation the English Defence League in 2013.

It is reported that the campaign did not approach Help for Heroes before making the commitment.

Francois has expressed disappointment that his campaign had failed but said he was still looking forward to celebrating on January 31st.

"The response from the British people has been fantastic and we are deeply grateful to everyone who donated," Francois said.

"However, having made final attempts over the last several days to persuade the House of Commons authorities that Big Ben should chime, we regret to report that we have been unsuccessful and therefore we feel we can no longer ask people to donate.

"We officially closed the fund at noon today."

He added that "even though Big Ben will regrettably not chime for Brexit" many people "will be celebrating the fact that we become a free country again" at 11pm on January 31.

That was "the greatest prize of all", he said.

Over the weekend it was reported Francois was not planning to sleep on Friday night.

"I'm not going to bed. I'm going to stay and watch the sun rise on a free country," he told the Mail on Sunday.

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