Big Ben

10 Nov 2008 13:04:09

Overseas residents banned from Big Ben

Big_benIf pressed to name one landmark to serve as a symbol of our nation, you might well alight on Big Ben. He's featured in countless movies, has been the backdrop for momentous news events, and is a major tourist attraction.

(Pedants will point out that Big Ben is actually the nickname for the Great Bell, which is housed within the Clock Tower. But over the years Big Ben has become a catch-all term for the whole edifice. This distinction is typically British and charming.)

Big Ben is something we can be very proud of. It seems a shame, then, that overseas residents are banned from seeing inside. Although the waiting list can be as long as six months, UK residents can book a tour through their local MP. But other people cannot.

As limited as space is, and as much as it makes sense to prioritise people who live here, surely there is a case for letting foreigners enjoy a British national treasure. It's easy to forget that lots of people who live elsewhere have a profound affection for our country.

No obvious security issues spring to mind - Big Ben is not exactly hard to find!

One remarkable footnote is that when demand is high "those with a proven interest in clocks or bells will be given preference". How do you demonstrate that?!