It might be nice if we didn’t have to pay for his privilege

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Seeing as tomorrow is the anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar, I thought I’d write a little bit about ships this week.

It was 209 years ago that Admiral Lord Nelson commanded just 27 ships-of-the-line in the battle against the combined French and Spanish fleets.

He was outgunned and outmanned, but the British fleet didn’t rule the waves for nothing.

For Nelson had something the combined fleet didn’t – experienced sailors and marines and a desire to doggedly pursue the enemy until they were well and truly defeated.

Portsmouth has a long history of supporting the navy, from the boys press-ganged on the cobbles of Spice Island to those who worked in the dockyard to keep the ships afloat.

And it’s true to say Portsmouth wouldn’t be even half the city it is without the navy making its home here.

A lot has been written recently about the 5,000 job losses in the Senior Service and reductions in the number of ships in the fleet.

The rebuttal is that, in terms of tonnes, the navy has never been bigger.

But though the new aircraft carriers might be heavy, they can’t be in two places at once.

While we may have some of the most advanced warships in the world, our enemies will not have the weariness of spirit of the French Admiral Pierre-Charles Villeneuve when faced with a Royal Navy that was advancing in two columns.

But war has changed, we all know that, and so our approach to it must also change.

Now Spice Island and the Camber is to be home to a different kind of shipping – the Ben Ainslie Racing HQ for his America’s Cup team.

The promise was the development would give us an extra shilling in our pockets, but the news that the council, thanks to a fault in the paperwork, will potentially pay out over £1m to prepare the land is astonishing.

I still think having him and his team here is a good thing.

But as we’re allowing him to build on centuries of history it might be nice if we didn’t have to pay for his privilege too.