It may not be shipbuilding but there 
are positives

The handsome fang-tooth snake eel

ELISE BREWERTON: When the tide begins to turn

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So have we been sold down the river or are we standing on the brink of a new era of prosperity based on a fusion of traditional skills and new technology?

At the moment, your answer to the questions thrown up by the shipyard in Portsmouth seem largely dictated by your political leanings. If you’re a Tory, you fall in behind the prime minister and his claim that he has honoured his promise to restore shipbuilding to the yard – and that this heralds a bright future.

If you’re not, you look at the series of announcements from ministers who have visited the city – and there have been a hell of a lot in recent months – and seen only recycled announcements and misleading statements.

So what’s the truth? As ever, it’s somewhere in between the two extremes. But some things we should be able to agree on.

Firstly, has shipbuilding come back to Portsmouth? In short, no. Magma is a terrific and pioneering company but while it builds components for ships it is not a shipbuilder. And likewise, the section of BAE that is moving into the shiphall is a repair wing.

Secondly, does this matter? Well yes, it does. The News has argued and campaigned for shipbuilding to be restored, but having said that there must be recognition that seeing thriving companies in the yard – of any persuasion – is a significantly better position than having empty buildings. We were promised by David Cameron that everything possible would be done to restore shipbuilding, but it seems everything possible has not been enough.

Are there concerns over the numbers of jobs created? Yes there are, as Magma is a relocation. Do we hope that this move helps it expand hugely and take on more staff? Yes, of course we do.

This isn’t just a fudge or a whitewash. We should be grateful for what we are awarded – such as the unmanned vessel research centre and the Chinook contract – although these are on merit.

We can still strive for more, for the best deal possible for this area. However, looking for positives isn’t the same as settling for second best.

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