The Conservatives nationally made great play of the fact they came to Gateshead to hold their spring conference in March. We were told this was a clear indication of Conservative revival on Tyneside and a commitment to making sure the party of Mr Cameron is back on the political radar screens of North East voters.
This upbeat message flowed out of an interview Cameron did with our regional paper, the Evening Chronicle, on 14th March: "He [Cameron] refused to make any forecasts about the party’s election prospects, but said it is making progress in Sunderland and North Tyneside and should be winning seats in Newcastle and Gateshead, both Tory-free zones."
The last time the Conservatives won a seat in Gateshead was in 1992 when they held Low Fell ward. This final Tory seat went Lib Dem in 1996 (the Lib Dems had already won the other 2 seats in the ward).
So a come back for the Cameroonies in Gateshead should start in Low Fell. It seems that the Conservatives have overlooked one small problem: without a candidate for people to vote for, recovery can prove rather challenging!
Low Fell has a double vacancy. Charles Jevon, our councillor in Low Fell for the past 14 years, is retiring. Frank Hindle, who first won the seat in 1991, is due for re-election and is standing again. So two seats....but only one Tory candidate.
Not exactly evidence of a Tory recovery! My prediction: after 1st May there will still be no Tory Councillors in Gateshead or Newcastle.