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Boris's Bonkers Bung-a-Bob-a-Bong Bungle
20 Jan, 2020

In less than a fortnight, despite a majority of the population opposing it, we will be dragged out of the European Union to face an uncertain future. Yet, most of those who purport to support it were unwilling to put their hands in their own pockets to celebrate it. L4E Secretary Andy Pye does the maths.

After opposition party leaders decided inexplicably to take their collective feet off Boris Johnson's throat, the outcome of the December 2019 general election was virtually inevitable. I predicted a 60-80 seat majority, so the result fell just inside my predictive band. Anyone who doesn't understand why that happened should queue outside my study before going home!

So we are now into a long-term game and the debates are just beginning. Many local groups are already holding meetings. On Saturday 25 January, there will be a major Grassroots for Europe Conference in London, where local pro-Remain groups throughout the country will meet to debate future strategy (already sold out - sorry!).

However, the arguments against Brexit have not changed. They are the same as they were in May 2016 and on 11 December 2019. Brexit will end badly.

Yet Johnson pleads for unity and for Remainers to get behind his insane Brexit plan. Fat chance. We are still waiting for him to apologise for what we have lost in order for him to achieve his Pyrrhic victory. His actions are also disingenuous - while pleading for unity, he is quietly stripping away workers' rights and environmental protection safeguards, cutting down Commons debating time and enabling ministers to implement legislation without it being debated at all. Dark Days for Democracy.

Perhaps the most insulting development of all is the proposal to revamp the rules on holding referendums, to make them harder to implement in future. So while the Leave campaign won in June 2016 off the back of an advisory referendum with no supermajority safeguard (the European Union recommends a minimum of 55% majority for any referendum to have validity), now having won (with the aid of various dodgy practices) they are now pulling up the drawbridge. This means that reversing the June 2016 scam would be made so much harder. This is hypocritical and totally unacceptable. One hopes that pangs of conscience or a hint of contrition might persuade them not to implement this proposal....but don't hold your breath!

With the prospect of rampant celebrations throughout the Leaver communities on 31 January, it would surely be natural for Big Ben to Bong to mark the joyous occasion at 11pm? Right on cue, Johnson (never a man for detail) trumpeted plans to do just that.

But the Elizabeth Tower, which holds the Great Bell known as Big Ben, is being restored. At a meeting of the House of Commons Commission on Monday. But the cost was estimated at £500,000 - so the idea was ditched - too much, it seems for the Government coffers to stump up. Let's overlook the estimate by Bloomberg that Brexit has so far cost £130 billion and heading north to £200 billion by year end.

Johnson agreed that this was expensive. Nonetheless, one might think that with so much hot air in their sails, and with the prize within their grasp, Leavers themselves might be happy to stump up the cost. After all, with 17 million of them, as we are always being reminded, this works out at just under 30p each. Not to be deterred, the PM came up with a plan for the public to fund it via a crowdfunding initiative, allowing the public to "bung a bob" for Parliament's famous bell to ring out. Must be good value, right?

Wrong – by 15 January, the fund had yielded just five hundred quid - not even three hundredths of a penny per Leaver. Now that's what I call putting your money where your mouth is. How cheap votes are to buy these days! There has since been a spurt, mainly due to a few large donations from prominent Leave supporters, such as Arron Banks, and the fund has now reached about half its target.

In comparison, on Saturday 12 January, the modest EM branch of Lewisham West and Penge raised £155 to pay for the hire of its hall. The good folk of South East London popped on average about £2.50 per head into the collection tin. For the record, this is approximately 350 times more per head than the Leave campaign is donating for its "Bong Chance." Remind me again why we are doing this? Which group really cares most about the country?

Many critics rightly feel that the money should be donated to more deserving causes than interrupting vital maintenance work for a vanity project. "The obsession with Big Ben chiming for Brexit really highlights the shallowness of the Vote Leave campaign," commented SNP MP Neil Gray. "Big Ben to bong (thanks to public subscription), but no guarantee for EU nationals, no guarantee on Erasmus and a power grab from the devolved settlement. Priorities."

Of course, it turned out that Commons authorities have said there could anyway be difficulties in accepting public donations. And so with the Government distancing itself from the campaign the idea was killed off - though sadly not taking Brexit with it. However, one suspects that the same low level of detail has been applied throughout to the feasibility of Brexit.

While the celebrations and non-Bongs take place, what will we Remainers all be doing? Myself, I cannot bear to be in the country for this event. Cowardly perhaps, but we are off to Bruges for the weekend (all booked!). Maybe we should stay and face the Leavers down, but do you know what? I really don't think they are worth the trouble. Anyone who is also in Bruges, let us know and we will share a Belgian beer!

Andy Pye
Secretary, London4Europe

London4Europe blogs are edited by Nick Hopkinson, Vice-Chair. Articles reflect the views of the author and not necessarily of London4Europe.