MPs have suggested calling the London landmark Elizabeth Tower, sparking a backlash from republicans who accuse them of championing a “crass and profoundly inappropriate” change to the Houses of Parliament.
Big Ben is the east tower of the Palace of Westminster. Though actually the name of the 13-ton bell inside the tower, it has been unofficially adopted as collective name for the landmark.
It is assumed the bell was named after Sir Benjamin Hall, who oversaw the installation of the Great Bell.
A group of 23 MPs, who are mostly from the Conservative party, have signed a Commons early day motion requesting it take the name Elizabeth Tower, and urge their colleagues to back the move “in recognition of Her Majesty’s 60 years of unbroken public service on behalf of her country”.
The MPs Tobias Ellwood and former former foreign secretaries Jack Straw and Sir Malcolm Rifkind points to the fact that in 1860, when the west tower of the Palace of Westminster – hitherto known as the King’s Tower – was rebuilt, it was renamed the Victoria
Tower in honour of the country’s longest-serving monarch. Only the present Queen and Victoria have been on the throne long enough to celebrate a Diamond Jubilee, it adds, paying tribute to the Queen’s “energy, wisdom and grace”.
Spokesman for the group Republic, Graham Smith, said given Big Ben was a “landmark of our democratic parliament”, a name change would be “profoundly inappropriate”.
He added: “This is not supposed to be an absolute monarchy. She [the Queen] isn’t there to be the dominant figure; she’s supposed to be very much a personal figure in our political system. That parliament is there for everybody and the idea that you’re going to turn a major feature of our parliament into a tribute to an unelected, unaccountable head of state completely stands against absolutely everything that democracy’s about. It’s absolutely obscene.”