Why we must become the home of the surface fleet

If you can do this, you've won Lesley's respect

LESLEY KEATING: Makeup on a train? I’d look like a suntanned zebra

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The squeals of protest have begun already courtesy of Gary Streeter, the Tory MP for South West Devon. And of course it will not be long before it becomes a chorus of disapproval.

In playground name-calling terms, it goes: ‘You’ve got the two new aircraft carriers and all the destroyers. What more does Portsmouth want?’

On the surface, one would think Devonport had a justifiable claim to hang on to the seven Type 23 frigates which currently call Plymouth home. We have the other six frigates and all six destroyers.

In the next scheduled defence review planned for 2015, the Ministry of Defence will decide which base will get the 13 new Type 26 frigates.

Devonport will lobby furiously for all of them, as will Portsmouth. And like last Saturday’s Dockyard Derby between Plymouth and Pompey, it might end up as a score draw.

Of course, politically, both sides have a vested interest in maintaining the current strength of their naval bases.

But we have to say that both Portsmouth MPs – Lib Dem Mike Hancock and Tory Penny Mordaunt – make strong cases for Portsmouth retaining both carriers and the destroyers, but also all the frigates.

Surely it makes good economic sense?

We have the skillbase, the workforce and the space in the naval base to maintain and repair all these front line ships. So why divide frigates between the two bases?

It also makes sense for Devonport to keep the amphibious fleet of HMS Ocean, Albion and Bulwark because the majority of its embarked Royal Marines are based in the west country.

And as much as it might pain traditionalists, it is also sensible to now base the ice patrol ship HMS Protector at the Devon yard.

After all, Devonport is now the home for the Royal Navy’s new Hydrography and Meteorology Centre of Specialisation and base for four survey ships.

When Mr Hancock says: ‘Portsmouth should be home of the surface fleet’ because it is ‘logical’ and cost effective’ we have to agree.