not a single Liberal Democrat candidate will be standing at next month’s local elections in South Tyneside.
The Lib Dems’ no-show at the ballot box, the first in a generation, comes amid fears by one of its former representatives that its brand is now “toxic on the doorstep”.
Until just a few years ago, the party’s candidates at Parliamentary elections in the borough were the natural opposition to Labour.
In South Shields at the 2005 general election, Lib Dem Stephen Psallidas finished second to then-Labour MP David Miliband with almost 6,000 votes, 19.7 per cent of the total cast.
In Jarrow that same year, Bill Schardt amassed 6,650 votes, 19.6 per cent of the poll, as he also came runner-up, to MP Stephen Hepburn.
In local elections around the same time, the party, led by Nick Clegg since 2007, could usually guarantee a handful of seats, particularly in the Hebburn North ward.
The reality is that the Lib Dem brand is toxic on the doorstep.
At one time, it held all three seats for Hebburn North.
However, since the 2010 general election, the party’s fortunes have declined dramatically in the borough.
At the 2013 Parliamentary by-election in South Shields, its candidate, Hugh Annand, lost his deposit, receiving just 352 votes, just 1.4 per cent of the vote, and only narrowly avoiding the ignominy of being defeated by the Raving Monster Loony Party’s contender.
Now, not a single Lib Dem is to contest the local elections in South Tyneside on Thursday, May 7.
The party’s absence from the political scene in South Tyneside comes as no surprise to Joe Abbott, formerly a Lib Dem councillor for Hebburn North.
He said: “It’s something of a shame, but I’m not surprised no-one is standing from the party.
“The reality is that the Lib Dem brand is toxic on the doorstep.
“It all dates back to the party getting into bed with the Tories.”
Mr Abbott is standing as an independent in Hebburn North next month.
He was the Lib Dems’ last councillor in South Tyneside until he quit the party in disgust over its decision to form a coalition with David Cameron’s Conservatives in 2010 and back his austerity measures.
He stood as an independent at 2012’s elections but lost out to Labour’s Mary Butler.
The other candidates in that ward are Adam Ellison (Labour), Matthew Giles (Green Party), Ian Harkus (Independent) and Amy-Jane Milburn (Conservative).