We still don’t know who the shipyard bidders are

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Prime minister David Cameron is an experienced political operator.

So it was no great surprise that he chose his words carefully when pressed on the revival of shipbuilding in Portsmouth.

You may recall that back in January he wrote to The News, pledging he would do everything he could to protect the city’s yard from closure.

This came after defence giant BAE Systems’ shock announcement that it was transferring its shipbuilding operation in Portsmouth to Scotland, putting hundreds of jobs at risk.

So what did he say on the matter during a visit to Portsmouth yesterday? Asked whether he would keep to the promise he made on shipbuilding, Mr Cameron said: ‘I will do everything I can to help bring that about.’

No definite ‘yes’ then, but a response that at least gives us continued hope that alternative uses can be found for the city’s shipyard in the wake of BAE’s departure.

Of course, accentuating the positives and playing down the negatives is what politicians do.

So it sounds encouraging when we reveal that the government is to review eight bids on the table for reviving the shipyard by the end of next month.

They range from one serving the defence sector to others interested in building large-scale structures out of composite materials.

Mr Cameron says that the City Deal, the LEP Growth Deal, the Ben Ainslie Racing development, the servicing of Royal Navy ships and the potential for new businesses add up to a ‘very positive and strong story’.

And to a point we agree with him. But the fact remains that we still don’t know exactly who these shipyard bidders are and how realistic are their plans.

If, as Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt says, the companies are still working out the figures, then we’ll remain patient.

But the longer it goes on, the more sceptical people will become that Mr Cameron is not going to live up to his pledge.

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