There was an interesting insight last week in our regional newspaper, The Journal, into what the Conservatives really think of their hopes at the general election, whenever it is held.
An unnamed aid to David Cameron was quoted as saying, “We have to accept that at the moment the North is permafrost for the party. We don’t have to win seats in every Northern city to win an election but there is this permafrost which is difficult to overcome."
There were then all sorts of denials from other Conservatives that the Conservatives were doing badly in the North East. One of the most ridiculous of claims was the Tories' problems in the region are only in "pockets" such as Newcastle (a Tory free zone). The problem for the Tories in the region is that most of it is a huge pocket of dereliction. Attempts to spin the holding of a few seats in Sunderland, North Tyneside and Darlington councils as meaning unalloyed success across the region will not work, despite the Tories' best efforts at smoke and mirrors.
I use a different analogy to permafrost. The North East is a desert for them with a few oasis. Their one council controlled oasis is about to succumb to a Labour sandstorm when it is abolished as part of council reform over the next year or so.
And their North Tyneside oasis has reached its limit and has even shrunk a bit - such as when they lost their only elected mayor in the country in 2005.
There was a time when the Conservatives had a string of seats in the region. Tynemouth, Newcastle Central, Darlington, Stockton South, Langbaugh were all Conservative in recent memory. In Newcastle Central they are now a distant 3rd and they are no better off under the new boundaries.
The Conservatives need an electoral breakthrough in the North East if they are to stand any chance of winning an election nationally. And whether your analogy is with a baking desert or an ice age, either way the only way the Conservatives can succeed here in the North East is if there is a major change in the political climate that allows them to flourish again.
Frankly, there are no signs whatsoever of that happening.