Video: Nick Clegg in Portsmouth

From left, Southampton City Council leader Simon Letts, Portsmouth City Council leader Donna Jones, and Isle of Wight Council leader Jonathan Bacon sign the formal application for a Solent Combined Authority in 2016

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SHIPBUILDING sparked political debate as both the deputy prime minister and foreign secretary came to the city to promote their party’s candidates.

Nick Clegg called in at the Spinnaker Tower yesterday and made an impassioned speech to assembled Lib Dems, imploring them to continue their work to promote parliamentary candidate Gerald Vernon-Jackson.

Nick Clegg speaking at the Spinnaker Tower

Nick Clegg speaking at the Spinnaker Tower

Meanwhile, foreign secretary Philip Hammond spoke direct to residents on their doorsteps in Fratton and Copnor on Saturday when he joined the Tory parliamentary candidate Flick Drummond on her campaign.

During his visit, Mr Hammond spoke on the loss of just under 1,000 jobs at BAE in Portsmouth in 2013.

He said: ‘Of course it was regrettable that BAE made the decision to take the shipbuilding jobs elsewhere but the economy in the area was resilient enough to absorb that, the high skills that people in that business had have quickly been absorbed in other areas and the fact [the Tories] are creating so many new jobs means the economy is the fastest growing in the G7, which has allowed that wound to heal.’

His statement was rubbished by Mr Vernon-Jackson at the Lib Dem rally.

He said: ‘We have lost 1,000 jobs in the dockyard, high quality engineering jobs, and those are gone. To say that somehow that the city is recovering is just not right.

‘For the prime minister to say that he has delivered on his promise to bring shipbuilding back to the city, when he hasn’t, is a real insult to the people of Portsmouth.’

During their visits both ministers spoke of the importance of the Portsmouth South seat.

Mr Clegg warned of the dangers of voting for the Conservative Party.

He said: ‘[The Conservatives] are a party that wants to turn the clock back so that our country, and here in Portsmouth, we would spend as much as what we did half a century ago. Do you want a party that for ideological reasons wants to turn the clock back half a century?

‘Or do you want a party such as ourselves, the Liberal Democrats, who want to create a stronger economy by balancing the books and doing it fairly but also investing into schools, colleges, nurseries, hospitals and making sure the Royal Navy remains here in Portsmouth and investing in the future surface fleet?’

Mr Vernon-Jackson and Ms Drummond are fighting to take the seat in Portsmouth South from disgraced independent MP Mike Hancock, who quit the Lib Dems last year after admitting to inappropriate behaviour towards a female constituent.

Asked for his views about Mr Hancock’s decision to stand in the election, Mr Clegg said: ‘It’s really simple – Mike Hancock is not a Liberal Democrat.

‘Gerald Vernon-Jackson is the candidate. We are completely united behind him.’

The seat is also being contested by Labour’s Sue Castillon, Ukip’s Steve Harris, Tusc’s Sean Hoyle, Justice and Anti-Corruption Party’s Don Jerrard and Ian McCulloch for the Green 
Party.