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The Conservatives could lose their hold on Oxfordshire County Council after failing to secure a decisive election victory.

Despite snatching target divisions from Labour in Banbury and Didcot, the party lost in others and ended one short of the 32 seats needed to control the authority.

See how the election unfolded during a dramatic day.

On Friday night opposition parties launched a charm offensive to try and woo independent councillors who could now hold the balance of power.

Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats have said they could consider a 'rainbow coalition', with talks expected to take place this weekend.
Labour boss Liz Brighouse said: "We need a different approach in Oxfordshire – so we will be looking at the numbers."

But Tory leader Mr Hudspeth warned: "What Oxfordshire needs is a strong and stable administration – not chaos."

For much of the past four years, the Conservatives held 31 seats and ran the county council with the help of independent councillors Lynda Atkins, Mark Gray and Les Sibley. 

But earlier this year Mrs Atkins left the alliance and Mr Gray last night signalled he could also switch sides.

Stefan Gawrysiak, who also seized the Henley seat from Conservative David Nimmo Smith, suggested he would be open to talks.
Standing with Mrs Atkins and Mr Gray after the final results had been announced, he said: "We will have to pause and we will talk. What we want is what is best for Oxfordshire."

Mr Gray added: "We could see something different. It should not just be about slash and burn."

The results yesterday were a major blow to the Conservatives, who were hoping to seize a number of key seats.

In particular, senior figures had high hopes for areas where the UK Independence Party had competed for votes in 2013 but was no longer standing.

But a string of disappointments saw the Tories miss out on wins in Banbury Grimsbury and Castle, all three Abingdon seats and Didcot Ladygrove, where they hoped to defeat independent Neville Harris.

The resurgent Liberal Democrats – boosted in areas where there had been a Remain vote in last year's Brexit referendum – also saw the Conservatives lose Charlbury and Wychwood and Abingdon North.

Mr Hudspeth, who comfortably saw off a challenge from the Lib Dems in his Woodstock seat, said: "There have been losses and gains. I am honoured to be elected again and am pleased to see people are returning to the Conservatives."

Ed Vaizey, Tory candidate for Wantage, said: "This is a great result for a great leader."

The Oxford Times:

Ian Hudspeth with Wantage Tory candidate Ed Vaizey

Labour lost one seat overall but succeeded in ousting the Green Party from both University Parks and Iffley Fields and St Mary's – wiping out the party.

But behind the scenes, opposition parties were already beginning discussions about new alliances.

A good day for the Lib Dems

The ‘Brexit effect’ was hailed by the Liberal Democrats as they dramatically increased their share of the vote and won two new seats.

The party also secured a number of strong second-place finishes.

Party group leader Richard Webber, who narrowly held on to his seat, said remain voters had been attracted to his party, which has highlighted its strong pro-European values since the EU Referendum last June.

That vote saw 70 per cent of Oxfordshire voters cast ballots for remaining in the EU.

Speaking at the count yesterday Mr Webber said: “The results suggest our remain message is going down extremely well in this largely remain county of ours.”

The Lib Dems secured 13 seats, up from the 11 they won in 2013, and won 25 per cent of the vote, nine percentage points higher than the 16 per cent of four years ago.

In Charlbury and Wychwood Lib Dem candidate Liz Leffman caused one of the day’s biggest shocks as she unseated Conservative candidate Rodney Rose, the deputy leader of the county council.

The Oxford Times:

Liz Leffman smiles as Rodney Rose (left) looks on.

Ms Leffman was the Lib Dems’ candidate in the Witney parliamentary by-election last year and is their prospective candidate for the General Election on June 8.

Ms Leffman said: “I am delighted. I had a tremendous reception on the doorstep and it all came through in the vote.

“I really feel we have made a breakthrough in Charlbury and Wychwood and I am delighted to be the councillor for the ward.

“I am going to be able to serve the residents in Charlbury and I hope to be able to do a good job.

“I am looking forward to the General Election very much indeed, that is going to be the next challenge.

“Of course I don’t know whether I will win that but whatever happens I know I am going to be the councillor for Charlbury and Wychwood.”

In Abingdon North there was more good news for the party as Emily Smith took the seat from Conservative Sandy Lovatt.

In Eynsham the Lib Dems came within 95 votes of beating Conservative incumbent Charles Mathew as Tim Bearder won 1,621 votes, an astonishing increase compared to the 300 votes the party secured in last place just four years ago.

It made for a nervy few hours for Mr Mathew before the result was declared.

He said: “I went to bed last night convinced that I had lost my seat but it is such a pleasure that honesty and my black and white personality have won the support of local people again.”

Despite the boost for the Lib Dems the party remains only the third-largest on the authority, with Labour taking 14 seats to remain as the second-largest.

The party’s share of the vote held up and despite losses in Banbury it took two seats off the Green Party in Oxford.

In Witney South and Central Labour’s Laura Price, who won by just 20 votes in 2013, held on for a fantastic victory.

Ms Price secured 1,361 votes to the 1,235 taken by Conservative candidate Alan Beames.

Ms Price said: “I was so worried about letting people down but I am absolutely thrilled and I want to say thank you to everyone who put their faith in me.

“We have won this result by putting our Labour values into practice in the community.

“We have not just been on the doorstep in the past month.

“We have been out over the past four years building that relationship with people.”

The Oxford Times:

Laura Price chats to Labour Party colleagues after the count.

Greens wiped out 

OXFORDSHIRE County Council will have no Green Party members when it next meets after the party was wiped off the electoral map.

Going into the election the Greens held Iffley Fields and St Mary’s and University Parks divisions in Oxford, but lost both.

David Williams lost in Iffley Fields to Helen Evans of Labour by 199 votes.

He said: “I lost because the election became entangled with the upcoming General Election and people started to vote not on local issues or local characters but on party political lines.

“About halfway through the campaign we saw that in all our canvassing, people are now gearing up for the General Election.

“That was the overwhelming message.”

The Green Party’s share of the vote dropped from nine per cent to seven per cent.

In University Parks Benjamin Carter won 352 votes and ended up in third place behind the Lib Dems and winner Emma Turnbull of the Labour Party.

It was a chastening day for the party across the county, although one ray of light was a second-place finish in Cowley behind Labour’s John Sanders.