So far so good: Fallon’s speedy plan is exciting

Clive Smith says he would not like to arm wrestle athlete Caster Semenya 		Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

CLIVE SMITH: English pigs? Don’t bite the hand that feeds you

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There will be those today who read the words ‘new report’ and ‘investment plan’ in relation to Portsmouth’s post-BAE shipbuilding era, who will throw up their arms in despair.

They are the cynics who will claim nothing will ever come of it; that it is all more hot air from politicians and that this ‘new report’ will do nothing than gather dust on Whitehall and Civic Offices’ shelves.

Time might prove them right.

However, we must give Michael Fallon, the minister for Portsmouth, and Rear Admiral Rob Stevens, the report’s creator, the benefit of the doubt.

So far so good.

Let’s remember that it was only four months ago that BAE Systems dropped its bombshell by announcing that shipbuilding would end in this city by the end of this year with the loss of nearly 1,000 jobs.

Perhaps there were many people who expected an overnight fix and that those 1,000 jobs could be replaced instantly.

It was not an unnatural reaction considering the shock and hurt that announcement caused to Portsmouth and its hinterland.

But it was a naive view.

Giving the area a renewed marine and maritime industrial base was always going to take time, a long time. And we must accept this brave new world will take at least a decade to come to fruition.

But Mr Fallon has kept his word and his team has produced today’s report in double-quick time. For this he deserves credit.

There are several exciting proposals in the £91m investment plan.

Not least the desire to spend £10.5m on the port to double the number (by 2023) of cruise passengers calling into Portsmouth.

The possibility of attracting Sir Ben Ainslie’s America’s Cup team to the city is even more mouthwatering in terms of the kudos it would bring the city. Just imagine if he won it for Britain in a yacht designed and built in Portsmouth.

There are many other creative proposals in the Stevens’ Report which would boost the region’s economy.

The political will and clout really does seem to be there. All we need now is the cash.