The count for the Oxfordshire County Council elections is complete and I set out some reflections on the result. First the impact on the ruling Conservative Group.
To gain outright control required 32 seats and the Conservatives have fallen just one seat short of that. To go from a majority of 30 in the last council to a hung council at one go might be thought careless as Oscar Wilde put into the mouth of Lady Bracknell. However, there may be extenuating circumstances.
The council was slimmed down from 74 members to 63 members as a financial saving. Yes – it was my initiative. The Conservatives held 52 seats in the old council with 74 members and a proportionate reduction would have given them 44 seats out of 63 and a majority of 25. However, with only 31 seats, they can be said to have lost 13 with Labour gaining 7; Liberals gaining 3 and the Independents gaining 3. With just about every electoral division changed, comparisons are difficult but here are some generalisations mixed with some political tittle tattle.
In Abingdon, the Liberals seem to have recovered from the shock of losing Evan Harris at the general election and managed to take back seats from Mike Badcock in Abingdon East and from Marilyn Badcock in Abingdon South. The latter sees the return of Neil Fawcett, a masterly Liberal tactician and campaigner in the style of Lord Rennard. In Abingdon North, Sandy Lovatt did well to hold the seat for the Conservatives despite some haemorrhaging of votes to UKIP.
In Banbury, Labour took four of the five town seats from Conservatives. Keith Strangwood lost Banbury Calthorpe by just 16 votes to Mark Cherry, a building site worker; Ann Bonner lost Banbury Grimsbury & Castle to Mike Beal, an ex-county council youth worker; Nick Turner lost Banbury Hardwick to Surinder Dhesi; Alyas Ahmed lost Banbury Ruscote to John Christie, an ex-county council education officer. By contrast, Kieron Mallon held Bloxham & Easington with a good majority over all comers. For the four seats lost to Labour, if the UKIP votes came largely from disaffected Conservatives, their votes handed victory to Labour in every case. I am not sure this is the outcome they would have wished.
In Bicester, Lawrie Stratford held Bicester North with UKIP running second; Michael Waine similarly held Bicester Town with a very creditable number of votes probably due to his having taught an awful lot of Bicester residents during his time as a school master! The shock in Bicester was to see Norman Bolster lose comprehensively to Les Sibley who has resigned from the Labour Party and who stood as an Independent. This was not expected and says something about Les Sibley’s following in the town and the constant coverage a local rag gives to his every word.
In Didcot, that very old trooper, Patrick Greene triumphed in Didcot East & Hagbourne; others fared less well. Bill Service lost Didcot Ladygrove to Neville Harris, another ex-Labour Party member, turned Independent; in Didcot West, Tony Harbour lost to Nick Hards. In both cases, it looks as if votes for UKIP may have handed victory to Labour.
In Henley, where some saw the Henley Residents Group (HRG) there was a brilliant result for David Nimmo Smith despite a heavy vote for the HRG and UKIP in this true blue town. Hopefully, this may be the beginning of the end of HRG. I hope so.
In Cameron’s Witney backyard, Richard Langridge, a newcomer to the county council and tipped for early promotion, had a good win over Labour despite some UKIP defections; Simon Hoare, another talented newcomer, had a similarly good win with UKIP in second place; however, in Witney South & Central, David Harvey, a prominent Witney antique dealer, was beaten into third place behind Labour and UKIP. There must be a story here?
I will look at the other parties in a later blog. You can see all of the results at http://www.oxfordshireelection.org.uk.