Middlesbrough is rightly proud of its maritime heritage. The name of Teesside's famous son, the explorer Captain James Cook, adorns everything from the local hospital to the town square. However, a mutiny is brewing.
On Thursday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock stood up in Westminster to announce new lockdowns banning households mixing in indoor settings (including pubs and restaurants) across Merseyside, Warrington and Teesside.
He also recommended that people only visit care homes in exceptional circumstances, and guided against all but essential travel.
The restrictions are intended to address a worrying spike in coronavirus cases. However he was quickly drowned out by growing voices of dissent.
The Mayor of Middlesbrough, Andy Preston (formerly of Labour but who was elected in 2019 as an independent) led the charge, claiming the restrictions are “based on factual inaccuracies and a monstrous and frightening lack of communication, and ignorance.
Many in the town seem inclined to follow suit. Among those enjoying a drink together before the restrictions come into force on Saturday were friends Nicola Brogan and Paula Hoare, both 27, sitting in a bar off Captain Cook’s Square. Invoking the name of Captain Cook's ship, The Resolution, the pair say such single-mindedness remains a characteristic proudly associated with the town today.
“People will do as they want,” said Hoare. “The message is so confused that it’s impossible to enforce.”
Plenty of others seemed in agreement. “Good for the mayor saying defy the ban,” said 24-year-old Liam Watson.
“He's sticking up for people and trying to stop businesses going bust and if it comes down to it I'd rather listen to our local leader than some muppet at Westminster.”
Business owners in the town, particularly those working in hospitality who have already been struggling to keep afloat as a result of the pandemic, were similarly backing mayor over Government.
Among those in favour of ignoring the new restrictions is Sarah Best, owner of Sherlock’s and Dr Watson’s bars which stand opposite each other on the fittingly named Baker Street. The 27-year-old warned she may have to close the doors in as little as three weeks due to the projected loss in income.
“I really think customers will rebel, especially if the mayor is backing us,” she said.
She also questioned how she was expected to enforce the new rules. “I’m not going to be asking for utility bills,” she said.
Craig Kevin, 47, who works on a fast-food stall in the town centre, said footfall had already fallen in recent months due to coronavirus uncertainty and the latest dispute would do little to restore confidence.
“I think people will just decide to carry on as normal because they don't actually believe any of them,” he said.
The Middlesbrough mayor has been backed in his rebellion by the independent leader of Hartlepool council, Shane Moore.
On Thursday, Mr Moore said that while the council wanted a ban on different households mixing, any new restrictions should not be extended to cover pubs. What was being proposed, he said, was “draconian”.
At least in Merseyside, Mr Hancock can expect local politicians to tow the line.
Thursday’s restrictions were welcomed by the area's 14 Labour MPs, six council leaders and the mayor of the Liverpool city region, Steve Rotheram.
However, with infection rates in the words of Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson now “basically out of control”, they still questioned whether it was enough to contain the virus.
Damned if you do and damned if you don’t, the Health Secretary might say. But without everyone pulling in the same direction, HMS Hancock is going nowhere.