For the Conservatives, Gateshead is one of their most parched electoral deserts in the country. The last time they topped the poll in any ward in the borough was in 1992 when, in the afterglow of the general election, their one remaining councillor hung on in a ward that the previous year had gone Lib Dem and the year before that had gone Labour. It is now a very strong Lib Dem ward with the Conservatives having collapsed to the point of being so far back in 3rd place that they don't even put out leaflets at election time.
Nevertheless, somehow they always managed in the past to field a full slate of candidates. Quite where they dug the people up from is unclear. They never had any election literature and were simply flying the flag, even if no appreciable number of people noticed it. And hardly any ever turned up for the count.
But this year they have not even achieve a full slate. In one of our wards, Pelaw and Heworth, the Conservatives have failed to put up a candidate. In a second, Blaydon ward, 2 seats are up for election. The Conservatives have only one candidate.
In every ward last year the Conservatives were 3rd, 4th or 5th meaning they were, worryingly, beaten by the extremist fringe BNP (as they were in a by-election we had in one war in September last year.)
Whilst the Conservatives (and the press) talk of a Tory revival, there is no sign of it here in Gateshead or across the Tyne in Newcastle where the Conservatives stand little chance of winning any seats.
For an allegedly national political party that is the official opposition, the Tory prospects here are dire - as indeed they no doubt are in many other parts of urban Britain where frankly, as a party, they are irrelevant bystanders.