‘Sir Ben Ainslie was pushed Portsmouth’s way in wake of shipbuilding loss’ says Lib Dem

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FRESH claims have been made Sir Ben Ainslie was ‘pushed’ into choosing Portsmouth as the home of his America’s Cup sailing team.

City Lib Dem Gerald Vernon-Jackson said the Olympian would never have come to the city if it were not for the loss of shipbuilding.

Cllr Vernon-Jackson, who was leader of the council when Sir Ben was eyeing up potential sites in early 2014 – said it was ‘absolutely clear’ the government was having an influence over his decision.

It comes after Southampton leader Simon Letts said in a meeting his city was snubbed as ministers had been ‘running around in a blind panic’ trying to think up ways to show they still cared about Portsmouth after the future of the dockyard was thrown into jeopardy.

Cllr Letts has since withdrawn his comments, and both the government and Sir Ben’s Land Rover BAR enterprise have denied the claims and say Sir Ben made the decision to come to Portsmouth on his own.

But Cllr Vernon-Jackson said: ‘My understanding is, Ben Ainslie was pushed our way and the UK composite centre was pushed Southampton’s way.

‘It was to try and compensate for the loss of shipbuilding.’