Fifty or sixty years ago, “Cunard Yanks” were a familiar feature of the Merseyside scene. They were generally – but not always – merchant seamen who had shipped across to the United States eastern seaboard from Liverpool, and who had adopted what they saw as iconic American styles. They wore Wrangler or Levi jeans, and perhaps a Ben Sherman shirt, or a Fruit of the Loom sweatshirt. They posed casually in city pubs, smoking Lucky Strike or Chesterfield cigarettes, lit with their Zippo lighter. They were ersatz Americans, sometimes affecting a mid-Atlantic drawl. In short, they were phonies.
Whenever I hear the word “Cunard”, I think of these particular “Yanks”. Thus, when the Cunard Building is mentioned – and it often is, for the wrong reasons – I smile at the thought of all the phoney proposals launched from this profoundly miscalculated purchase of Mayor Anderson (Sorry to raise him yet again but he makes all the decisions in Liverpool, including the purchase of the centre piece of the Three Graces).
You will recall that the first piece of baloney justifying its purchase was its intended use as a cruise passenger terminal. It was an inane suggestion, and once it was recognised as such, a whole series of fanciful suggestions were promoted for the building’s use other than as a vanity waterfront office for the mayor. Such a case was the plan for there to be two restaurants in the building, run by a Manchester –based Australian. Bizarrely, this was a result of a liaison between the mayor, and partners John Hyland, a Liverpool “personality”, and Lib Dem peer Lord Carlisle (the previous public alliance of these two was one as a defendant in court and the other as his barrister!!). Needless to say, the restaurants plan never eventuated like so many of the Mayor’s announcements.
However, developer Lawrence Kenwright – a favourite of the mayor until they fell out over who could do most for the homeless – came to the rescue. He promised “something special” for the Cunard Building, including a Michelin-starred restaurant. That also has now fallen through, with the dismissal of the celebrity chef earmarked to run the show. Another phoney future for the Cunard Building has bitten the dust. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose …
It is really difficult to accept that there remains anybody who believes any of the spin which regularly emanates from the Cunard Building, so many have been the unfulfilled promises and so much has been fake news. The building itself is remarkable, but, as a purchase, is widely viewed as a financial white elephant, a symbol of the mayor’s misplaced confidence in his ability to conduct the city’s finances. With the latest loss of the city’s finance director, and even before the suggested loan to Everton FC, the future financial course of the council looks very problematic (and that is without continued austerity being taken into account).
It might be considered that, politically, this is a tough enough row to hoe. Then along comes our almost invisible Police Commissioner with a hefty rise in the police precept. One might expect a sympathetic hearing for this – after all, working people suffer disproportionately from criminal activity. However, the revelations of the cost of her office have caused tremendous anger among electors across Merseyside. An annual expenditure on her twenty four staff of £832,000 raises the question: what do they all do?? This alone could be a cause of real electoral difficulties for Labour even in their redoubts across Merseyside.
I cannot recall the same amount of disquiet across the city-region with ALL levels of local government than is the case today. I DO recall that in Liverpool in the early seventies, the then Liberal Party went from one councillor to city-wide control in a couple of years, due principally to the then council’s inertia. There was then widespread dissatisfaction with a self-satisfied Labour administration perceived as electorally complacent, indifferent to the electorate, and inflexible in policy. Could such a dramatic turnaround happen again? Well, just listen to what electors are saying… As for Cunard Yanks, who sails to New York these days?