Big Ben goes quiet and the commentators go wild

Is it just because it is silly season?  Why else get all worked up about Big Ben being silenced – temporarily and except for important occasions like Remembrance Sunday and New Year’s Eve?

Also, it’s good to know the Prime Minister has been keeping up with the news.  The story was covered first in 2015 but I guess she wasn’t Prime Minister then and didn’t need any more jobs to do.  That is slightly unkind of me, bitchy you might even say, but, seriously, Rt Hon Teresa May MP, don’t you have a few more important topics on which to spend your time and on which to ask your fellow MPs to spend time?

I suppose I’m a little biased here as the news this weekend left me unmoved.  The Today programme ran a big story on Monday 14 August 2017 and the tenor of the debate was, “Oh, no, we won’t hear the live bells!”  Frankly, I was more surprised that the BBC still takes the “bongs” live for their 6 p.m. and midnight news signals.  I just assumed they played a recording.

For the rest of the Benmoaners, I am sorry if the bongs are an integral part of their daily lives and that they will miss them.  However, I can’t help but think that this is a Westminster Bubble issue since these days, outside the Westminster Bubble, few of us can hear the bongs live.

Actually, when the story broke in 2015, I did think it might affect me.  However, I then decided that what I was hearing – from my roof when the wind was in the right direction – was not Big Ben but Great Tom, the main clock bell of St Paul’s.  Since I have a clear line of sight to St Paul’s, 1.4 miles away, compared to Big Ben 2.6 miles away behind a screen of buildings, it seems more likely.  So maybe it’s simply a case of I’m Alright Jackie and I should have more sympathy with the Westminsterites.

However, it’s hard to overlook the return of the all-too-easy attacks on the “elf ‘n’ safety” dictators.  There are even experts to ignore if you wish, Mr Gove.  Serious people have been working for several years to devise the best plan to tackle the work needed to the tower itself and the clock mechanism.  The project has considered the detrimental effect on workers of having the bells tolling.  Experts have even considered how much it would cost in real money (that can be better used elsewhere, remember, like making other towers safe for human habitation) to re-mantle and dismantle the mechanism every day.  They’ve thought about these things carefully, not winged off a soundbite in the midst of a trip to a warship.  Let’s show some respect to our fellow citizens and recognise that, as Rt Hon Jeremy Corbin MP said, “It’s not a national disaster or catastrophe.” (Quoted from the Times, News Section on 17 August 2017).  It is the implementation of a well-thought-out plan that takes steps to mitigate the risks as well as to achieve the aims at the least possible cost.

And, maybe those who live and/or work in the Westminster area will have the opportunity to hear other bells around London.  Or, if desperate for a fix, try YouTube or download an app.

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