YOU have to pity the Chancellor George Osborne, accidentally sailing into the choppy waters that are the relationship between Southampton and rival port Liverpool.

Choosing the Hampshire port to announce his latest changes to the pension system must have seemed like a fine idea. Making his announcement at the city’s impressive Carnival UK headquarters – the home of such illustrious cruise names as Princess, P&O, and Cunard – looked promising.

What could go wrong? Only it did of course.

Instead of the Chancellor’s pronouncement on pensions grabbing the headlines, the talk of the day concerned which chump had made him stand in front of a giant poster advertising Cunard’s celebrations planned for their 175th anniversary in the city of Liverpool.

Oh dear. Cue Southampton MP John Denham describing Mr Osborne’s faux pas as a “kick in the teeth,” which was a tad over the top for a politician of longstanding who would have realised the Chancellor had no say over what backdrop Carnival would choose to stand him in front of.

Whether the Chancellor’s entourage should have spotted the opportunity for problems floating into view, or Tory election candidate and the city’s Conservative group leader Royston Smith who was present, is a debatable point.

Certainly Carnival and Cunard are aware of the sensitivities of the growing rivalry between the two ports and Southampton’s constantly voiced fear that Liverpool will pinch some of the lucrative cruise trade.

But Cunard have consistently and loudly always denied there is any plan to shift their operations to the north-west, even if the cruise company was actually founded there.

They no doubt saw no problem in using the backdrop for what was after all an announcement covering a national issue.

In the end, the war of words between the two commercial ports is just that, a war of words.

There is scope for both ports to go forward and Southampton probably faces bigger challenges from the Thames Gateway development.

As far as the majority of the people of Southampton are concerned, I suspect a much greater topic of concern surrounds one of Liverpool’s football club’s attempts to buy almost the whole Saints squad.

Now if Mr Osborne had stood in front of a photo of Gerrard and the Anfield Stadium, that would have sunk his career.