This week in politics: Brexiteer Big Ben row, Labour leadership, Boris Johnson interview and Tom Watson's tale of betrayal

Jacob Jarvis
AP/AFP/UK Parliament

Big Ben's "bong" caused a political ding-dong this week, as Boris Johnson's latest major interview was largely overshadowed by his comment on its chimes.

The ringing is purveyed by some as an symbolic sound apt to mark Britain's EU departure - and the prime minister suggested Brexiteers chip in to cover the apparent £500,000 cost for it to bellow on January 31.

That now-derailed plan emerged as the PM was quizzed in a half-hour long live TV interview, the first such broadcast since his landslide election win. In this, he discussed the situation with Iran, Brexit and the Harry Dunn case also discussed.

Elsewhere, the Labour leadership race shifted forward, with five candidates vying to replace Jeremy Corbyn reaching its next phase - with the consensus on the favourite also becoming more muddled as voting nears.

The Standard looks at key points from the last week...

Brexit, Boris Johnson, the situation in Iran and the Labour leadership were all focuses this week (AP/AFP/UK Parliament)

Big Ben Brexit row

Is hearing the sound of Big Ben chiming in Westminster at 11pm on January 31 worth £500,000? Brexiteers fundraising to mark the occasion seem to think so - with prominent eurosceptics Nigel Farage and Mark Francois leading a rallying cry for the bell to mark the occasion of Britain leaving the EU bloc.

Those in control of the bell's "bong" wrote it off due to the steep cost - which they set at around half a million pounds - but a crowdfunding idea floated by the prime minister piqued the interest of those keen on the sentiment of hearing such a sound on Brexit night.

However, despite the money being raised, representatives of the House of Commons said such a scheme was "unprecedented", with Downing Street seeking to distance itself from the plan.

Mr Johnson, later accused of misleading the public over his "bung a bob" suggestion, later announced that a clock counting down to the moment Britain leaves the European Union on January 31 will be projected onto Downing Street under Government plans to mark the occasion.


But, after a win for the Mr Farage and his Brexit-backing compatriots in securing a celebration in Parliament Square at the end of the month, they seem determined to have their way over the bell too.

And they have a solution should they not be able to get their way - blasting out the sound on a set of speakers.

Johnson on Iran, Brexit, the Royals... and 'Vee-gans'

The BBC's Dan Walker quizzed Boris Johnson (BBC)

Boris Johnson gave his first major interview following his landslide election victory in December - and it shed light on more than just his thoughts on a 160-year-old bell ringing.

During the half-hour sit down, broadcast live from Downing Street, he also juggled the hot topics of the moment.

He said:

Final five to succeed Corbyn

Leadership hopefuls: Five candidates made it through to the next stage in bids to replace Jeremy Corbyn

Five Labour MPs made it through to the next round of the Labour leadership race.

Sir Keir Starmer. Rebecca Long-Bailey, Jess Phillips, Lisa Nandy and Emily Thornberry all received enough nominations from colleagues to pass the first hurdle.

Sir Keir had long been touted the favourite - though a poll released this week suggested Corbyn-ally Ms Long-Bailey could have the edge. Another poll on Saturday claimed Sir Keir was back out in front.

He has received the backing of Unison, seen as a major coup for his chances, though Ms Long-Bailey has since been backed by grassroots support group Momentum - which was seen as highly influential in garnering support for outgoing leader Jeremy Corbyn.

PM formally rejects Scottish independence referendum

Boris Johnson formally rejected Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon’s call for a second referendum this week, having long send he would not consider allowing such a vote to be held.

Ms Sturgeon had asked for Holyrood to be given the power to hold a fresh vote on independence, which has been an aim for her party the SNP.

However, Mr Johnson declined to offer to devolve the powers to allow such a vote - with Ms Sturgeon claiming the "Tories are terrified of Scotland's right to choose".

In a letter to the first minister outlining his decision, Mr Johnson said: “I cannot agree to any request for a transfer of power that would lead to further independence referendums.”

Tom Watson's tale of betrayal

Tom Watson pictured with Jeremy Corbyn (PA)

Former deputy Labour leader Tom Watson has co-written a political thriller as he leaps away from politics into the world of fiction.

The book, set to come out in autumn, is described as "a story of cold-blooded ambition, hope, friendship... and betrayal".

Mr Watson, who quit his former role over "brutality and hostility" within Labour's ranks, said: "The House will introduce you to the heroes and villains engaged in a struggle for fame, power and revenge."

He didn't mention to what extent he had drawn on real-life experiences in his writing.