‘Labour lost voters because it did nothing over Portsmouth shipbuilding crisis’

John Ferrett
John Ferrett
HMS Queen Elizabeth at Portsmouth Naval Base

BAE awarded seven-year contract to service ships

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THE leader of Portsmouth’s Labour council group has blamed his party’s lack of action in the campaign to save shipbuilding for its declining popularity amongst voters.

Councillor John Ferrett has written a chapter in a new book about Labour’s 2015 general election campaign and the big issues leading up to polling day.

For Labour in Portsmouth, the period 2010 to 2015 should have been a period of rebuilding the party following the terrible election result under Gordon Brown.

Councillor John Ferrett, Portsmouth Labour group leader

Cllr Ferrett, who was the party’s parliamentary candidate for Portsmouth North, attacks Labour’s failure to step in after BAE Systems revealed in 2013 it was moving its shipbuilding division to the Clyde, in Scotland.

He slams former party leader Ed Miliband’s ‘decision to abandon shipbuilding’ and the party’s priority at the time to protect political seats in ‘the west of Scotland’ rather than help workers in England.

Cllr Ferrett writes that the lack of action over the shipbuilding move – which he claims was made ‘at the top of government’ – helped to ‘accelerate the fracturing of political loyalties’ in Portsmouth, allowing Ukip to pick up six council seats at the 2014 local elections.

Cllr Ferrett, one of 10 parliamentary candidates who were asked to write chapters for the book, called Labour’s Identity Crisis – England and the Politics of Patriotism – adds: ‘For Labour in Portsmouth, the period 2010 to 2015 should have been a period of rebuilding the party following the terrible election result under Gordon Brown.

‘Instead, the period saw the party’s support in the city not only stagnate, but in fact go backwards, in a not dissimilar fashion to many of the other southern constituencies that had been won in 1997.

‘The message on the doorstep was invariably that Ed Miliband was not seen as a credible leader; Labour could not be trusted on the economy; and, in the final days of the campaign, the fear of a coalition with the SNP.’

Cllr Ferrett also reflects on how the Tories were kept out of power in the city in the 1990s, both thanks to Labour popularity and the work of former Lib Dem Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock, who he described as ‘an extremely effective, if roguish, local machine politician.’

The book has been put together by Labour MP and former shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt, and is set to be published soon.