Last week came the announcement that basically the government have shafted the people of Portsmouth. The city of my birth (so I have a tonne of bias) has been the home of the Royal Navy for eons and should always have that at its heart. So when it comes to building new ships for the Royal Navy then it should be Portsmouth first and anyone else second if there is enough business to go around. I know that sounds like bias (it kinda is) but the home of the Royal Navy is the home of the Royal Navy.
I’m not the only person to think this unsurprisingly. As of just now the Save Portsmouth Dockyards Facebook page had just under 73,000 ‘likes’ – not too shabby for what four or five days? It makes the No More Page 3 Facebook page look pretty stale in comparison with 15,000 likes doesn’t it? Well this blog isn’t about me talking about the pros and cons of boobs but about how a real issue that people care passionately about can gain traction.
Tonight at the Shepherd’s Crook in Portsmouth there will be the first meeting of the ‘Pompey Party’ which is advocating putting up an alternative candidate in I suspect Portsmouth South. I do not know if they plan on this being a one-issue party of the Independent Kidderminster Hospital and Health Concern ilk that saw Dr. Richard Taylor spend nine years as an MP for Wyre Forest, but I will say this, if there is a constituency in the country that is ripe for a one-issue party then Portsmouth South is most certainly it. Lets be honest here if someone went to the 2015 General Election on the sole ticket of the Portsmouth dockyard then they wouldn’t be laughed out of town.
People are proud of where they come from and proud of their identity. I live in Essex these days and many people here revel in the Essex stereotype but Pompey folk are different. I think of Pompey people as roll up your sleeves and just get it done people. Look at the fact the football club is now owned by the fans and what people went through to get that done. I thought it had no chance because the obstacles were too great but I was proved wrong and if the ‘Pompey Party’ actually gains some good leadership and knows what its goals are and the infighting is kept to a minimum then they won’t be a joke.
Nearly 73,000 have clicked on a link to Save Pompey Dockyards, which is easy enough to do but there is something underlying here. Around 200 protesters braved the rain for an impromptu rally against the loss of shipbuilding at the dockyard, imagine how that would be with some proper planning and time to get the folk of the city educated and up to speed on this issue?
The sitting MP, Mike Hancock knows of the damage done by this decision and spoke about why shipbuilding for the Royal Navy will remain in Scotland but not in the home of the Royal Navy:
“It is a big mistake on the part of the government to put all their eggs into one basket and say that shipbuilding in Portsmouth should cease to exist. It is a very, very big mistake and one that they will live to regret.
“Whatever happens Alex Salmond in a no lose situation. He can claim credit for jobs being saved in Scotland because the UK government are running scared of him, or if they close a yard in Scotland he’ll say they are punishing Scots because of the referendum. The government ought to have seen through that.”
Leader of Portsmouth City Council was just as vocal in his opposition, saying the following on BBC Radio Four:
“Portsmouth is the last place in England that has the ability to build advanced warships for the Royal Navy and I’m very concerned that with a potential independence vote in Scotland, if Portsmouth shipbuilding is shut down, what would remain of the UK would have no ability to build advanced warships.”
“It would just mean either that that would have to change and the Royal Navy would have to buy ships from France or Germany – or we’d have to spend a huge amount of public money re-employing people, re-skilling people here in Portsmouth”.
Downing Street is on record as saying that the dockyard was closed in the ‘national interest’ which is basically them saying, ‘this is a sweetener to Scots not to go independent’ and that really hacks me off. Jobs and livelihoods should not be used as a political football but it seems as though the powers that be have decided that Portsmouth is a good sacrifice to keep the United Kingdom together. I suspect that sentiment is not exactly echoed on Portsea Island.
The 2015 Portsmouth South contest looked set to be one of the most interesting in the country before last week, with the sitting MP elected as a lib Dem but having been stripped of the whip because of a civil suit against him, the Tories had hoped to make inroads here and take the seat back. UKIP also have been praying to whatever God they pray to for a by-election here as after the success of Eastleigh, where they would have won had they just been a few days quicker off the mark. So throwing in an independent one-issue party if it does gain that all important traction and leadership would just make it fascinating.
Oh and you might wonder why Labour haven’t been mentioned as a potential winner. They aren’t a relevant force in this particular fight. If Mike Hancock (or any Lib Dem) wants to win in 2015 then they have to get this decision reversed. I think the Tories will be burnt just as much as Mike by this decision in Pompey South and it really does open the door to a potential four-way contest. I just hope that by 2015 the Dockyard has been given a reprieve and nice new orders for naval vessels to be built in Portsmouth because if it hasn’t then Portsmouth South will solely be a one-issue election.
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