Pledge from prime minister can be crucial for the city

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We waited – and waited. Now we finally have a response.

With each passing day asking for a reply from David Cameron to The News’ open letter over the future of shipbuilding in Portsmouth, it appeared the government’s silence was deafening.

But today the prime minister has made a long-awaited pledge there is a willingness to support a city wounded by the decision to move all of BAE Systems’ shipbuilding duties to Scotland.

As it stands, the letter sent to The News from Mr Cameron – as featured on page five today – will offer little solace to the 940 people who face losing their jobs as a result of that announcement back in November.

But coming days after a Minister for Portsmouth was unveiled to deal with the fall-out from the planned closure, it offers hope there will be genuine efforts by the government to fulfil Michael Fallon’s ambition to ensure our proud city remains a maritime capital.

Perhaps more crucial is the wording used by the prime minister in his letter.

A welcome absence is the mention of the City Deal as a direct response to the loss of shipbuilding. While an undoubted positive for Portsmouth, the £50m deal to transform parts of the city was in place way before November’s announcement.

Then there is the vow to ‘protect the future of the shipyard’, not just for servicing but, more importantly, shipbuilding, too.

Critics will argue this is merely early electioneering and a desperate attempt from Conservatives to stay in power.

Doubters may be justified, too. After all, they are just words.

But they are words which we can now hold the government to to ensure our city does ‘come through stronger the other side’.

Whatever your political persuasion, there can be little doubt that the prime minister’s response puts Portsmouth in a stronger position to avoid being left empty-handed.

And we will continue the fight to make sure those words are turned into reality.

Once again, Mr Cameron, it’s over to you.